Steve Ewoniak, a married father of two, was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2018. It was a life-changing experience.
Steve noticed a small lump on his chest and his wife, Kerri, encouraged him to get it examined immediately. The same day that he went to his family doctor about the lump, he had the ultrasound that started his journey to recovery.
Over the next five months, Steve underwent a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He continues therapy with medications to help prevent recurrence and he has an annual mammogram. His life changed forever to a new path when he was diagnosed.
Family was an important part of his recovery and breast cancer journey. To remind him to stay strong, he received a Superman T-shirt and cape from relatives. He wore it to every chemotherapy and radiation appointment. Kerri, his wife since 2009, has always been there to offer her support.
“My wife has been the most amazing person to be able to manage the unknown and look after our children without me being as available,” Steve said. “(She) was my ears during all medical appointments. She was there with me from day one and I love her dearly for the support and care that she continually shows.”
Steve and Kerri made sure to spend time with their children during his treatment. They wanted to keep everything lighthearted for their daughter and son, aged five and three when Steve was diagnosed.
“I have a young family. I think that helped me take on a focus of being strong and positive,” she said. “We did a lot of good family outings and events to build happy memories and make it so the thought of cancer wasn’t wearing on anyone, myself included.”
“Most people associate chemotherapy with nausea and that wasn’t the case for me,” he said. “I was able to have a great time and a lot of fun with my little ones. That’s what makes the difference. A good attitude helps people get through things like a breast cancer diagnosis.”
Men account for less than one percent of breast cancer patients in Canada, according to recent Canadian Cancer Society statistics. Numbers were even lower when Steve was diagnosed, closer to 0.2% or two in one thousand patients. A breast cancer diagnosis in men can be severe and often fatal. Awareness of what to look for is lacking. Many men who have the disease don’t get it examined in its early stages because they don’t realize breast cancer can happen to them.
To raise awareness, Steve was the first male survivor spokesperson for the first-ever virtual BRIGHT Run in 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, BRIGHT Run participants were encouraged to host their own events. Facebook Live was used to broadcast the program and build a sense of camaraderie and community.
“I’ve really found a sense of a community of people that can relate to my experience,” Steve said. “During my treatment, I didn’t know many people, and very few men, who had breast cancer. BRIGHT Run has shown me there are others who walk this path and now we do this together.”
He calls his cancer “a life-changing experience that is with you all the time.” Until he went to his first chemotherapy appointment, he didn’t realize how many people are affected by cancer. Steve feels his efforts in supporting the BRIGHT Run are a great way of repaying those at the Juravinski Cancer Centre who helped him and many others with cancer recovery.
This profile was first published in the BRIGHT eNewsletter in July 2020.