Valley man joins pink mission to raise breast cancer awareness in men

FRESNO, Calif.

Fresno resident Harold Kelly is using his diagnosis to shine the light on breast cancer in men.

"I believe many men that get it and find out that they have it do not even tell people because they're a little embarrassed, thinking that's more of a feminine type of disease. Then there are a lot of men that have it and don't know that they have it," said Kelly.

Kelly was playing Sudoku at this kitchen table back in April 2010 when he made a huge discovery.

"I think I had my hand up here (on my head) like this. You know how we have a tendency to scratch our head when we're trying to figure something out? Either way, I know I had dropped my hand and as it went down it bumped the nipple and it felt tender. Then I realized it wasn't the nipple that was tender, there was a couple of lumps," Kelly.

Kelly immediately made an appointment with his doctor. At first, he said, the physician thought Kelly had cysts or fatty lumps, but a second opinion and later a biopsy revealed something that would forever change his life. The former U.S. Marine, and standout basketball player had cancer and the kind normally associated with women.

"When I went in, and I guess this is the best way to do it, he didn't take any time. He says well, we've got the results back and both of them are malignant, said Kelly. "And I know he was talking to me, but my mind was going what does this mean? What does this mean? How is my life going to change?"

Shocked by the diagnosis, he thought, "This happens to someone else - not me."

Kelly underwent a mastectomy removing several lymph nodes from his left breast. He was also placed on a five year regiment of an oral chemotherapy.

Determined to live life to the fullest and spread awareness about the disease in men, he jumped on board the pink mission, talking about his experience in public. He shared his story during the half-time show at a Fresno State basketball game, spoke to a group of men at the Fresno Rotary and appeared as one of the 15 faces of 15 races at this year's Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, encouraging any man who will listen to get regularly screened for breast cancer.

"When I was at Fresno State, I was encouraging people to get checked and then I had a call recently. I guess the man got my number through Fresno State. He had called to tell me, because of seeing me there; he got checked out and caught breast cancer at an early stage. He was calling to thank me and let me know that it made a difference," he said.

Kelly said he still gets emotional telling that story, but repeats in hopes of helping just one person.

This year, the American Cancer Society estimates about 2,240 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer and about 410 men will die from the disease. Although the number of women is about 100 times the number of men diagnosed, the agency reported the mortality rate is much lower for women.

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