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Meet the husband & wife who both battled breast cancer
Michael and Xio Caruso like to say that they are members of the “One-Percenters” club. Michael is one of the 1% of breast cancer survivors who are male, and Xio was diagnosed with a rare (about 1%) but treatable form of the disease.
On January 5, 2017, Michael was on the phone speaking with his daughter when he felt a tug around his chest. When he stood up to stretch, he felt a lump behind his right breast nipple. It was a large lump, which he never noticed during his morning showers. The very next morning, Xio called the doctor and made an appointment. A week later, after a full examination, the doctor sent Michael to the local hospital for a mammogram, the very next morning. Doctors told Michael he needed a biopsy, and on January 16th, Michael received a call from his doctor and learned that he had breast cancer. He was 49 years old. He was diagnosed with Triple Positive ductal carcinoma in situ: a HER2 positive, estrogen positive, and progesterone positive cancer. He describes the reaction he and Xio had to hearing the news as a “collective feeling of shock.” Because his mother is a breast cancer survivor, it was also recommended that Michael see a genetics counselor. His sister had tested negative, so Michael had assumed that it skipped him. It had not—his genetics tested positive for BRACA-2 gene.
Michael underwent a mastectomy—on Valentine’s Day—and then endured many rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy. In April of 2018, just before Michael’s “Big 50” birthday, 56-year old Xio was diagnosed with Mucinous Carcinoma, a very rare but treatable form of breast cancer that begins in the milk duct and spreads beyond it into nearby healthy tissue. They were “as prepared as any two people can possibly be” to face Xio’s surgery and treatment. Xio says that because she had been Michael’s advocate, she already understood what was in store for her journey. But Michael says it was very different going through it again with Xio. “I’m a retired military guy, I follow the steps, do what I have to do,” he said. “But with Xio, I felt really helpless, like all I could do was to be there for her.”
Michael finished his last infusion on April 24th, and Xio had a double mastectomy in May. Although they are finished with their treatments, their journey is not over. Xio and Michael are both passionately committed to increasing awareness of male breast cancer. Since Michael’s diagnosis, they have made the decision to share their story with as many people as they can to spread the word that men get breast cancer, too.
“If you suspect something is wrong, in any part of your body, don’t ignore it—get it checked. Education and awareness are key. Please share this information with your fathers, sons, uncles, brothers, cousins, grandfathers and every male in your lives (I do every chance I get). The fight against this disease can be won, but it starts with spreading awareness.”
Men have breasts, too. This year, an estimated 2,550 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed and 480 will die from the disease. Michael and Xio aren’t giving up, and neither are we. Help us meet our goal to reduce breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by half by 2026.