“I knew that lump wasn’t supposed to be there, but I figured I would just wait until after hunting season to get it checked,” says the Gilbert, Minn. man. “I’m glad I didn’t wait.”
His wife, April, convinced him to see family physician Teresa St. George, MD, at Fairview Mesaba Clinics – Mountain Iron. Teresa was concerned and had surgeon Sandra Hanson, MD, who happened to be at the clinic at the time, take a look.
The biopsy she performed just a few days later revealed that the pea-sized lump was invasive ductal carcinoma. Joe had breast cancer.
“We were shocked,” April say. “He didn’t meet the profile at all.
Rare but real risk
Male breast cancer is rare. According to the American Cancer Society, only 1 percent of all breast cancer cases occur in men. Men diagnosed with breast cancer are typically in their 50s and 60s. Joe, a 35-year-old-active outdoors man and father of two boys, says he didn’t have any other symptoms.
“I’m never sick. I hardly ever go to the doctor, ” he says. “When I told the guys I work with at Hibbing Taconite, they thought I was messing with them. I had to tell them it was for real.”
‘Everyone works so well together’
After his diagnosis at the clinic, Joe worked with doctors at Fairview Range Medical Center and University of Minnesota Medical Center to craft a treatment plan.In November, he underwent surgery to remove the lump and some of his lymph nodes. He chose to have the surgery performed at Fairview Range, he says, because it was closer to home and because he was comfortable with his doctor.“I trust Dr. Hanson or I wouldn’t have done it here,” Joe says. “If I had questions, she would text back and forth with me. She’s good at communicating with us. She’s been very supportive and checks in on me on chemo days. Dr. Hanson just took me under her wing.”Surgery day was nerve-wracking for the Sailers, but the doctors, nurses and staff helped put them at ease.“Once I got here, they really got the ball rolling,” says Joe. “Everyone was very good, and the surgery went well.”
“The whole team was great,” April says. “Dr. Hanson came and talked to me as soon Joe was out of surgery. Everyone took good care of us.”
The quality care the Sailers received during surgery has continued as Joe undergoes chemotherapy at Fairview Range.
“The whole team has been fantastic,” says April. “From the doctors to the nurses to the whole chemo staff, it’s like a family. Everyone works so well together and is so personable. For what we’re going through, it’s been a great experience.”
Back in action
In the meantime, Joe continues to take each day as it comes and tries to stay active.
“I’m not a guy who likes to sit around,” Joe said. “I love to be out in the woods. I love to fish. I push myself for my kids. I’m looking forward to going back to work.”