Steve Mosher was golfing with friends when he first felt a twitch during a swing. He reached down and felt a little bump, something odd he hadn’t noticed before. That incidental twinge and lump would soon lead to news he would have never expected: a diagnosis of stage IV breast cancer.
While rare, breast cancer can occur in men; about one in every 100 cases of breast cancer in the U.S. is found in a man. Steve had “hit the jackpot,” as he says—although not a lottery he ever wanted to win.
Steve’s mind first went to a cyst or maybe a calcium build-up, but when he shared the news with his wife, she insisted he go to his primary care physician. After some tests, he got the surprising diagnosis, just before Christmas in 2016. The news came to a shock to his family as well, particularly his kids, the youngest of whom was still in high school. The stage IV news upset everyone, Steve says, and the kids stuck closer to home than they might normally.
“They were checking in on me and I told them it was my job to check in on them,” he recalls. Now, after nearly seven years of treatment, life has normalized a bit, but Steve still feels lucky to be the one facing cancer, rather than his kids, no matter how surprising the diagnosis was.
After Steve first got the news, everything happened quickly. He had a mastectomy and soon transferred his care to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Erica Mayer, MD, MPH, director of clinical research in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers.
“The treatment plans ended up being fairly similar, but the approach was a different,” Steve recalls. “What it really came down to was how comfortable my wife felt with Erica Mayer—that was the key. I was still a little dazed and confused, so if my wife, Renee, felt comfortable with the doctor, so did I. Her face when she found out I had a stage IV diagnosis was something I’ll never forget, but her strength got us through this”
Steve’s treatment included various stints of radiation and chemotherapy, which Dr. Mayer completed with his quality of life in mind. Because Steve lives on Cape Cod, she and the team coordinated with local hospitals to have his radiation, which took place daily for five weeks, delivered close to home. It was summer, so every day, right after radiation, Steve would hop right into the ocean. And he and Renee have continued living their active lives as much as possible, traveling the National Parks and going into their “golden years” together—even if there is a question mark over how many years that may be. Today, he still comes into the city once every three weeks for treatment at Dana-Farber’s Chestnut Hill location, where his team consistently puts him at ease.
Every time Steve visits the Institute, he is inspired by the other patients. While some folks he has met over the years are no longer here, there are others who are thriving. Seeing pediatric patients in Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic on the Longwood Campus has particularly moved him.
“When you see the kids who are in treatment, it puts everything into perspective,” he says. “Every father there wants to be like you; they’d rather have it than their children. So when Dr. Meyer asks me how I’m doing, I tell her I feel like a million bucks.”
While living with a stage IV diagnosis, Steve has benefitted from several new treatments made possible by research at Dana-Farber—and by philanthropic support.
“Research moves very fast,” says Dr. Mayer. “But we can only do it with the support of our patients and our donors. It’s teamwork; we don’t do this work alone.”
“We’re going to keep taking it day-by-day, year-by-year, but Steve is doing fantastic,” she adds.
As far as sharing advice with other men, who may not be aware breast cancer can affect them, Steve says: “Take some time to be aware of your body. This can happen and I would tell every male not to hesitate about checking himself out or asking a loved one to help you.”
“I’ve dealt with a lot of guys in my life and no one checks for breast cancer,” he continues. “My wife was really pushing me to go to the doctor’s. If she hadn’t been adamant about it, I probably wouldn’t have gone.”
Help support patients like Steve by joining The Dana-Farber Campaign, our ambitious, multi-year fundraising effort to prevent, treat, and defy cancer. The Dana-Farber Campaign will accelerate the Institute’s strategic priorities by supporting revolutionary science, extraordinary care, and exceptional expertise. As a community, we have the power to create a more hopeful, cancer-free future—in Boston and around the world. Together, we can defy cancer at every turn. Learn more about The Dana-Farber Campaign and how you can get involved at DefyCancer.org.