October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Every Wednesday of the month, we will be highlighting the stories of those who have had their lives affected by breast cancer. These are just 5 stories of 5 exceptional people in a sea of millions. About 1 in 8 U.S. women and roughly 1 in 1,000 U.S. men will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of his/her lifetime; this is one of their stories.
Arnaldo Silva and Vanessa Silva-Welch
In January of 2007, Arnaldo Silva became one of the 1,000 men The American Cancer Society estimates will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year. After noticing a lump on his chest, Arnaldo sought out the aid of a professional who mis-diagnosed his condition, assuring him it was just fatty tissue and not to worry. Months after the initial visit, the lump of "fatty tissue" on his chest grew in size, prompting him to seek a second opinion. It was then he would learn not only that he had breast cancer, but that he also carried the BRCA 2 gene.
Arnaldo's doctor insisted that his four adult children—three daughters and one son—schedule tests to determine if they too were BRCA2 positive, a gene mutation associated with breast and ovarian cancers as well as cancer of the pancreas, gallbladder, bile duct, and stomach.
Because Arnaldo, 58 at the time of his diagnosis, was BRCA2 positive, there was a 50% chance that his children would inherit the gene. This was indeed the case. Vanessa and her then 29-year-old brother, Arnaldo III, tested positive for BRCA2, putting them at an 80% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. But Vanessa, who was a 32-year-old mother of three at the time, had breast cancer; something she wouldn’t have known or checked for if it wasn’t for her father’s diagnosis. The BRCA gene test is a blood test that uses DNA analysis to identify mutations in either one of two breast cancer susceptibility genes—known as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Unlike the second, BRCA1 is primarily associated with breast and ovarian cancer.
The father and daughter decided to face the fight together. Both Arnalsdo and Vanessa underwent surgery and once complete, decided to go through their chemotherapy together.
Through their experiences, Arnaldo and Vanessa discovered this disease does not discriminate and decided to work together in spreading the awareness that men get breast cancer too. They created a foundation called
Life In Faith Everyday (L.I.F.E.).
LIFE’s mission is to educate and raise awareness worldwide about men getting breast cancer as well as educate men about maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The father and daughter duo is currently working on a documentary about the too-often untold story of men and their battle with cancer.
Seven years later, both Arnaldo and his daughter Vanessa are cancer free.