For years, Dale Pillow knew he had a hard lump under his left breast but he didn't think much about it. Breast cancer was a woman's disease, he figured. Last July, the 62-year-old divorced father of two learned otherwise. Male breast cancer accounts for 1 percent of all breast cancers, and a man has a one in 1,000 chance of developing it. Most men impacted are between age 60 and 70 -- and Pillow was one of them.
Pillow had a radical mastectomy on Aug. 7. Additional tumors were found in his lymph nodes and those removed as well, and he is undergoing an aggressive protocol of chemotherapy, which will be followed by radiation. He has but one request: With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, he'd like Ellen DeGeneres to help him spread the word that men aren't immune to the disease. He's applied to be a guest on her show.
Pillow, as part of his one-man public awareness campaign for male breast cancer, posed with 99 female breast cancer survivors on the steps of the Leflore County Mississippi courthouse in Greenwood -- all wearing royal blue tee-shirts with pink letters that included a twitter handle and slogan:
It’s not just a girl thing."
Pillow stands in the front, alone, in the photo shot by local photographer Johnny Jennings from a perch on a ladder.
Pillow said he had no trouble finding 99 women breast cancer survivors. "We put out the word through our churches and 112 showed up." His daughter, Elizabeth Day, who works in marketing for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, got the shirts designed and the event publicized.
"I've known quite a few women who had breast cancer, but never a man," Pillow, a farmer, said. "And when people would hear about my situation, they would first say how sorry they were to learn about it and then they'd always comment how they didn't know men could get breast cancer too. Every one needs to learn the facts, and men need to be doing self-exams the same as women."
What's his goal? "To get on the Ellen DeGeneres show and let the world know about male breast cancer," he said. Ellen, are you listening?