Healthy Living: Man living with breast cancer on mission to raise awareness

Michael Kovarik wants people to know, men can have breast cancer, just like women.

In 2007, the retired elementary school teacher was diagnosed with breast cancer after discovering a lump near his left nipple.  After treatment, Michael went into remission, but in 2015 learned the cancer had returned and metastasized to his lymph nodes.

Metastatic Breast Cancer or stage IV breast cancer is cancer that has spread or "metastasized" to other parts of the body, including the lungs, liver, bones and brain.  According to the non-profit organization METAvivor , of which Michael is a board member, more than 230,000 Americans are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and 30% of people who have been treated for early stage breast cancer eventually develop stage IV breast cancer.

Michael is now on a mission to educate the public about Metastatic Breast Cancer .  As part of the METAvivor Sea to Sea for MBC Advocacy  tour, Michael is traveling the country to raise awareness about MBC, and to educate patients about how to effectively advocate for their own health.  Since 2009, METAvivor has awarded 33 research grants totaling more than $2,400,000 to fund research on stage IV breast cancer.  Money organizers say is critically important since statistics show only 2-5% of research dollars are focused on the treatments for patients with stage IV breast cancer.

As part of his journey, Michael Kovarik made a stop in Seattle to visit with doctors and researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center .

"The most wonderful thing to me is to walk away with hope and visiting with researchers at Fred Hutch has done that", Michael said. "You guys are part of my lifeline.  I'm a metastatic patients and I will always be in treatment.  But sometimes I wonder, what if the treatment stops working?  What's the next thing?  What if there isn't a next thing? What you're doing means so much to us as metastatic patients."

Currently, researchers at Fred Hutch are working on therapies to help patients living with (and dying of) metastatic breast cancer, and continuing to pursue immunotherapies and other forms of treatment.

In addition, Fred Hutch researchers will be teaming up with the  Northwest Metastatic Breast Cancer Conference  on October 26-27, 2018 in Seattle.   In partnership with Komen Puget Sound, the event was founded by Lynda Weatherby and the late Beth Caldwell , an MBC activist who died last November.