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Breast Cancer Foundation Rallies Men

When Marc Heyison’s mother, Gloria, was diagnosed with breast cancer, he did his best to support her.

Often, he would accompany her to doctor’s appointments. It was during those visits that he noticed something.

A lot of the other women fighting the disease had come to their appointment alone.

“That really sat in the back of my mind,” Heyison said.

Inspired by his mother’s battle, Heyison began a yearly golf tournament with the American Cancer Society to raise funds for breast cancer research.

In 1996, he founded the nonprofit Gloria Heyison Breast Cancer Foundation in honor of his mother, now a 13-year survivor of the disease. And in 1999, Heyison joined friend Stephen Peck in founding Men Against Breast Cancer.

“We are the first national nonprofit whose primary mission is to empower men to be caregivers when breast cancer starts,” Heyison said. “We want to show people that breast cancer is a family issue.”

The group will hold its annual “Think Pink & Blue Gala” tonight at the Ritz-Carlton, a way to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month and honor individuals playing a role in battling the disease.

Among the honorees are Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), a breast cancer survivor who co-chairs the House Cancer Caucus.

Chef Jaques Haeringer and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals will also be honored.

“It’s just time to raise the awareness and honor people who have made a difference,” Heyison said.

Heyison said the main goal of his organization is to help men understand the role they play in supporting their wives, mothers, daughters, sisters and friends battling the disease.

Hence, the design of the group’s ribbon.

While pink ribbons usually are used by breast cancer charities, Men Against Breast Cancer’s ribbon features pink and blue, linking the two sexes together.

“The biggest thing for a man is to know that he cannot fix this,” Heyison said. “But he can be there.”

It is as simple as giving up the remote control, Heyison said. Or a husband taking care of the kids on the weekends so his wife can recuperate from chemo treatments.

“In a life-threatening crisis, you kind of freeze,” Heyison said. “The most important thing is to make sure she knows you are going to be there for her.”

And even men whose wives are not battling the disease can help in the fight.

“I tell men you get a free nag once a month,” Heyison said. “You say, ‘Honey, did you do your monthly self-exam?’”

In the years to come, he hopes more men will be able to understand the role they play in helping their loved ones beat breast cancer.

“Right now, they say Men Against Breast Cancer is unique,” Heyison said. “Once they say Men Against Breast Cancer is the norm, that will be great.”

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