Written by Nicolas Stroman
Wednesday, 30 October 2013 00:00
The Troxell family pre-Race, 2011. Photo provided by the Troxell family.
According to the American Cancer Society, about 2,240 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed among men in 2013, with an estimated 410 deaths.
The lifetime risk for men is 1 in 1,000.
Ann Troxell of Peoria said she was pregnant with her second child when her husband, Doug, told her one night at dinner that he thought what they had previously affectionately referred to as his “third nipple” could be breast cancer.
“Whenever he got sick, his nipple would swell up. We had spoken to doctor friends who told us it was probably just a lymph node doing its job and pulling out the infection, but that he should get it checked nonetheless. He waited a few years without getting it checked,” Troxell said.
Troxell said she remembers laughing at Doug’s breast cancer pronouncement because she didn’t think men could get breast cancer.
A few days later, Doug told her he could feel “strings” attached to his nipple, running up his arm. At that point in 2006, the Troxells went to see a doctor.
“After numerous tests, sonograms, and needle biopsies, it was confirmed it was stage 3B breast cancer. Stage 4 is terminal,” Troxell said.
After the diagnosis, Troxell said Doug had a full mastectomy, followed by very aggressive chemotherapy and months of radiation.
“He was able to work through the majority of it, and within a year and a half, the tests showed no active cancer cells. We had been told that the survival rate for women his age was 50/50, but that there were not any stats done on men, let alone at his age,” Troxell said.
“Doug had follow-up appointments every six months, and the fourth follow-up, the tests showed the cancer had reoccurred,” she added.
After the reoccurrence, Troxell said they tried anything and everything, including a trial medication which he was doing great with, but soon no longer met the criteria.
“He had developed fluid on his lungs. Then, he had signs of the cancer on his liver and on his brain,” Troxell said.
She said Doug had a port put in his brain to administer the chemotherapy directly and he continued going through radiation.
Doug passed away on March 1, 2011 in the family’s living room.
“Hospice had been called in about two weeks prior to his passing. They were a blessing and comfort to have in our home,” Troxell said.
Troxell said all men and women need to do regular home exams and take their health seriously.
“If Doug had been seen by a doctor sooner, he may still be here today,” Troxell said.
Troxell said October is really hard on her as it is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and she is bombarded with advertisements and public service announcements about breast cancer.
“First off, the ribbon is pink, which was very difficult for a guy like Doug to deal with. Don’t get me wrong, he owned pink shirts and all. But to be a man, diagnosed with a ‘woman’s disease’ was very degrading for him,” Troxell said.
Troxell said it hard for her to hear only women included in the breast cancer messages from media outlets and non-profit cancer foundations.
“I don’t want to be negative or take anything away from the support and fundraising that these foundations do, but it is difficult to hear when 2,000 men a year are diagnosed,” Troxell said.
“We do walk in what my girls call ‘daddy’s walk,’ the Komen Race for the Cure,” she added.
Another group at the Komen race inspired by Doug’s cancer fight is made up of his former hockey teammates.
Doug’s friend Doc Watson said Doug joined their hockey team – Peoria’s Oldest Hockey Team - in 2000 and he was the youngest player at the time so they took to calling him “Sonny Boy.”
“Originally, our team was called the FROGS - Freakin’ Really Old Guys – so some called him Tadpole. My wife says there’s something about sports that draws teammates together more than typical friends and I agree,” Watson said.
“When you sweat, hyperventilate and injure yourself for a common cause for many years, you inevitably forge a unique bond,” he added.
Watson said their team is closer than most and the players often socialize away from the rink.
They are also one of the bigger partying teams.
“Alcohol is usually involved. Doug took a lot or ribbing because he wasn’t crazy about the beer or martinis that most of us favored. He took heat for his ‘girly drinks’,” Watson said.
Watson said Doug brought a zest for life that was welcome in the locker room, but they were just one of his social outlets.
“He had golf buddies, poker buddies and hometown buddies. Doug was popular with guys on other hockey teams and with the Rivermen crowd,” Watson said, adding Doug was the top off-ice official for the Rivermen stats crew at home games.
Watson said the team was shocked when they found out about Doug’s breast cancer.
“Guys don’t get breast cancer, right? Wrong. The other factor that didn’t make sense was that he was still one of the youngest guys on our team. He was in his early 30’s when first diagnosed,” Watson said.
Watson said he played hockey right up to the fall of 2010, worked from home a lot, and never complained about the pain he was going through.
“He’d get chemo on Monday, be down on his couch for a few days, and then play hockey with us on Sundays. That last year playing, he was losing feeling in his hands and feet,” Watson said.
“When a guy fighting cancer doesn’t complain about his pain, we surely could not complain about our temporary injuries, of which we had many,” Watson said.
Watson said the hockey community organized a fundraiser in 2010 to help cover insurance costs for the Troxell family after he had left his job at State Farm in Bloomington and his disability insurance had not kicked in yet.
“The community raised thousands of dollars that night for the family. I organized a final trip to a St. Louis Blues game for him. Unfortunately, by the time the game rolled around in February 2011, he was pretty far gone. He died two weeks later,” Watson said.
Watson said the hockey team and wives decided to walk in the Race for the Cure after his diagnosis – and host fun parties afterward - and have walked in two of the races since his death and will continue to do so.
“It’s the least we can do to remember his legacy as a breast cancer awareness spokesperson,” Watson said.
Troxell said she and her two daughters are still moving on more than a year and a half after Doug’s death and trying to find their new normal.
“Things have obviously changed. Routines have changed and rituals have changed. Luckily, my girls were young and are resilient,” Troxell said.
“There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t talk or think about Doug,” she added.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 October 2013 14:13