Cancer Is a Drag


What does it take for nine regular working class men to completely go out of their comfort zone by dressing up in drag and walk down a runway in front of all their peers and work colleagues?

Work colleagues and myself dressed up in drag for breast cancer awareness.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is about raising awareness of early detection of breast cancer.  Left undetected and untreated breast cancer can spread to other areas of the body.  It is also about raising funds for breast cancer research and support.

Fundraising bake sale. Photo credit Mandy Bortolussi

The company I work for had several breast cancer fundraising events which included a bake sale, a team that participated in the Run For The Cure and the “Cancer is a Drag” event.  With 78 full time employees we raised close to $10,000 for breast cancer research and support.

Our team photo before participating in the 5k run/walk. I was not at this as it was held the same time I was speaking at church.

It took a lot of deliberation to decide whether I was going to dress up in drag.  As some of you might know, I am also a lay pastor, and this was going to be really, really out of my comfort zone.  My life is a “fishbowl life”.  What would the neighbours say?  But I have had many neighbours, friends and relatives that have had breast cancer.  Some have lost their lives from it, some are fighting it, and some are breast cancer survivors.  For these dear people, this was definitely far more out of their comfort zone.

Pink shirt which boldly says “Live” on the front. On the back it said “Ruthanne’s Rebels from her many supporters. As a friend of mine Ruthanne Krant lost her hair from chemo, she often wore a scarf.

Some of the clothes I wore for my “drag outfit” was from a dear long time (24+ years) family friend named Ruthanne Krant, who is a much loved and respected Georgian College professor.  As families we have got together a lot over the years.  My son was a groomsman for Ruthanne’s son’s wedding. Ruthanne is a breast cancer survivor. Ruthanne not only was willing to lend me some clothes and makeup, she was more than willing to answer some questions from me regarding her journey with breast cancer. She shared with conviction about her experiences with breast cancer so it may help others. Here is her story from when she discovered she had breast cancer at the age of 54.

Ruthanne Krant…Facebook photo.

Carl: About discovering you had breast cancer, was it a routine check up, or something you felt was not right, and brought it to your physicians attention?  And what was your reaction?  Were you surprised or shocked?

Ruthanne: I discovered the breast cancer after noticing some subtle symptoms on my left breast that weren’t there previously. Ironically, the mammogram I had months before had turned out negative (turns out it was a false negative). It’s important for women to respond to any changes in their breasts. The symptoms are noticeable! I was surprised by the diagnosis because my mammogram that year had been clear. I was surprised and I wasn’t. One of my good friends had just been diagnosed with an unusual sinus tumour that turned out to be a malignant cancer. It was around the same time that I decided to stop my busy pace and get myself into my doctor’s office. The words “invasive ductal carcinoma” were very scary. All the while that I was having my diagnostic tests done (biopsies primarily paired with ultrasound), I thought about Dave & Lisa Elliott’s son who had just died that August with leukemia. He was only 17. I was thanking God for every day he has given me.

Carl: What was the reaction of your family, friends and colleagues?  Were they supportive? Did they treat you any differently?

Ruthanne: My husband James was the best support. He told our kids (one of the most difficult things for me) while I was there in the room. Our kids were amazing! Carl – I could write a blog about our kids’ reactions. They stepped up to the challenge with me and were there by my side all the way along. I found they were my greatest source of motivation. No matter how badly I was feeling from surgeries, chemotherapy or radiation, I was always up and dressed by the time they came home from school. My colleagues at Georgian College and my church community were so supportive. The outpouring of prayers, positive messages, cards, gifts, flowers etc. was unbelievable. Carl – I have pages and pages of e-mails I’ve saved from that time through my cancer journey.

Carl:  What was your prognosis, treatment, and chances of survival? How difficult was the treatment? How did it affect you physically and mentally?

Ruthanne: After the biopsies and lumpectomy, it was determined I had stage 3 HER2 positive cancer. This is an overexpression of cancer cells. Fortunately, through the fantastic work of researchers and fundraisers, a new drug to treat this type of cancer was released on the Canadian market. I can send some details if you want. Herceptin is an infused drug that I was given through a portacath over 18 treatments. It reduces the risk of cancer recurrence considerably. The treatment was tough. Toughest parts included learning that I needed a full mastectomy after the initial lumpectomy was done. Turned out the cancer had spread further than the surgeon originally thought. I found it very difficult to lose my hair through chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can cause a lot of joint pain and fatigue. It’s the ‘battle’ part of cancer treatment for sure. Radiation was also ordered for 5 straight weeks. I was fortunate that I was able to get all my radiation treatments at RVH without having to travel to Toronto.

Carl: I have heard horror stories of people who became shipwrecked financially from cancer. How did the cancer affect you financially? (away from your job, treatments/ medicines not covered by insurance, special transportation, etc).

Ruthanne:  Carl – I was very fortunate to have a sick plan through Georgian College that covered the majority of my salary while I was off. While in treatment, I met a number of people who were trying to continue working through their treatments. They were self-employed or didn’t have sick plans. My heart went out to them. Fortunately, RVH does work with various funders to provide some financial assistance especially for medication costs.

Carl: In terms of advice, what was the best advice given?   

Ruthanne: The best advice I ever received was that a journey with cancer is a very personal and unique thing. Although we can learn from others who have been through treatments, we need to be careful because each cancer is unique (different diagnoses = different treatments). There is a lot of advice and stories about people’s experience with cancer. It’s understandable because cancer affects so many.

Carl: How long have you been cancer free Ruthanne?  As a breast cancer survivor, what would you share with someone just diagnosed with breast cancer?

Ruthanne:  I have been cancer free for 8 years Carl. There are a number of lessons I’ve learned that I would like to share with anyone who has received or may receive a cancer diagnosis: 1. You are not alone. Reach out to family, friends and the medical community for help and care. 2. There is no dumb question about cancer. Be prepared to ask lots of questions. Thankfully, cancer research and development is revolutionizing the treatment of cancer. We are taught to live with cancer because in many instances there may be recurrences. 3. Focus on life, not death. Each day, focus on the good people and things in your life. 4. Lean on your faith. God can carry you through the trials. 5. Take time to rest. A lot of people will want to visit and care for you. Sometimes the best thing is sleep. 6. If a friend comes along to encourage you to walk a little, be sure to do it. Walking is the best thing to battle the fatigue of cancer treatments. 7. If it helps you, journal your thoughts and feelings. There will be many. 8. Pray 9. We go through this so that we can be a shoulder to lean on for someone else who may be experiencing something similar. 10. Laugh and cry – both are so good for you!

Ruthanne (in centre) at the finish line at Run For The Cure a few years back.

Thank you Ruthanne for sharing your journey.  For anyone who knows Ruthanne would agree that she has such a passion for life.  Her smile, her laugh, her exuberance.  It is SO contagious. She is now 62 and still loving life. Not only is she a “survivor”.  She is a “thriver”

Ruthanne Krant is now 62 and still loving life. Not only is Ruthanne a “survivor”. She is also a “thriver”. 🙂

According to the Breast Cancer Society of Canada in 2017 an estimated 26,300 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,000 will die from it.  Approximately 1% of all breast cancer cases are male and in 2017 it is expected that 230 Canadian men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 60 will die from it. From the World Cancer Research Fund International in 2012 (the last year a full tally was done) there were 1.7 million new breast cancer cases that year worldwide.  The highest breast cancer rates were observed in North America…..92 per 100,000 population in the US and 80 per 100,000 population in Canada.

Saw this on my Twitter feed, and thought it was important also for us men to know. Male or female, whenever a change in the breast is detected, it is important to see a physician.

These are staggering statistics, which affects many, many lives.  There are many ways we can reach out, some of them in the most unexpected ways.  My wife is a knitter who volunteers her skills to knit prosthesis for those who have had to face a mastectomy.

My dear wife with some her knitting friends at the local branch of Knitted Knockers held the 1st Thursday each month at Barrie Library.  Image Source Knitted Knockers of Canada Facebook page.

The organization is called Knitted Knockers of Canada which connects volunteer knitters with breast cancer survivors to offer free knitted prosthesis.  Taken off their website it mentions that “Some women find traditional breast prosthesis too expensive, heavy, sweaty and uncomfortable. Also traditional prosthesis often cannot be worn for weeks after surgery”.  The yarn used in the Knitted Knockers is a high grade, soft, comfortable mercerized cotton that has no allergens, is not itchy and does not shrink when washed.  On the website you can request a knitted knocker for free for a breast cancer survivor, you can donate for the purchase of more yarn, or you can learn how to volunteer. The organization also has a very active Facebook page called Knitted Knockers of Canada.

Lots of love knit into this table of knitted knockers all ready to be stuffed by my wife and her knitting friends.

I am glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to dress up in drag for a short time.  It opened up a door in which I was able to have my friend Ruthanne share her own path she has travelled.  She has a conviction to speak about her experiences with cancer if it can help others.  For more information on breast cancer types, treatment, risk factors  and prevention (which also has a link for male breast cancer) please go to Breast Cancer Society of Canada.

Image Source

According to a new report from the Canadian Cancer Society, almost one in every two Canadians is now expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and one in four Canadians will die from it.  The report further stated that in 2017 an estimated 206,200 new cases (from all the forms of cancer) and 80,800 deaths (from all forms of cancer) will occur in Canada in 2017.  Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada, and is responsible for 30% of all deaths.

Categories: HealthTags: , , , , , ,

35 comments

  1. Awesome, Carl! My thanks to both you and Ruthanne for sharing! And, congrats on the money raised in a fun way!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You clean up nicely,Carl 🙂 Thanks for sharing this – creativity does go a long way in creating awareness!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing her story – and I enjoy the drag!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A very good article , Carl. You are an outstanding friend , co worker and community supporter.
    I really appreciated that you included the statistics for men with breast cancer. This is often overlooked and breast cancer fundraisers always call it a women’s cancer so I don’t think many men would even consider it

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lori, I am very, very touched by your reply. Thank you for taking the time to read and share. I read out your comment to Lynne who reminded me it was breast cancer that took your dear husband’s life. I am so sincerely sorry.

      Male breast cancer really is overlooked and I will be honest, I don’t consider it like I should. A reminder to myself and all men that we should take it seriously.

      Thank you for being such a wonderful neighbour and friend over all these years in our little village!

      ~Carl~

      Like

  5. Wow! Your post is looking very nice.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What an important post Carl and bravo to you for going out of your comfort zone to make a difference. I work for a not for profit supporting women with breast cancer and the cause is near and dear to me. I had goosebumps reading Ruth Anne’s answers. She was so open and honest. A big thanks to her as well for sharing her story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for taking the time to read and sharing this with me Sue. Wow, I did not know this is your vocation. Your care and empathy will provide strength, courage and empowerment through a very vulnerable and traumatic period in another persons life. Your job would be heartbreaking when you lose someone to cancer and very rewarding when those who you are supporting are able to beat cancer.

      Ruthanne was amazing. She wrote out the answers for me and was so articulate it was like we were just having a conversation. She has a passion for living and a compassion to help others. I respect her so much for being so open and honest. An amazing family friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Carl, this post was just awesome! Thank you for taking a chance by dressing up in drag to help raise money for such a horrible disease. I have not had bc but know many that have and/or who have been affected by it. Loved the pics here and personal stories, it was a very touching post.

    And hey, you look pretty good in a skirt…;)

    Like

  8. I think you look absolutely fabulous! What a great reason to dress up in drag. Wonderful post and so very informative. I’ve never heard of knitted knockers. What a great idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Awww..thank you so much Sarah. I really appreciate you taking the time to read and for your kind words.

      Knitted Knockers has a pretty neat history. A breast cancer survivor started making them for other survivors which caught the attention of a local radio station in Maine. Then it was picked up by CNN Headline News and quickly it became global. It takes my wife around 3 hours to knit one Knitted Knocker.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Your tip to someone on community pool led me to check your blog. Nice writings. Do check my blog and follow if u like.

    Like

  10. What an uplifting story and inspiring corporate event. Thank you Carl for increasing awareness of such an important issue.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. So much to love on this post, Carl. The drag is my favorite. Y’all had too much fun. The awareness raising, the t-shirts, and the fruit illustration were all so helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Carl… I smiled as I read your post. As your friend Ruthanne shared, it is good to laugh if you are a cancer survivor/thriver! People recognize your heart through the make-up and cute leggings!

    Another thing to add to the chart, “Myth versus Fact.” When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I remember telling the doctor, “But it didn’t hurt!” Pain is not necessarily a symptom of breast cancer as I thought it was.

    Thanks for bringing attention to October’s BC Awareness month in such a unique way!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debbie, thank you for stopping by and sharing your input and kind words. Your input is so very much appreciated. Having no pain involved is something we should all be aware of. And is why sometimes that breast cancer goes undetected.

      Thanks again, hope you have a tremendous rest of the week. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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