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73-Year-Old Man, Breast Cancer Survivor, Supports Others by Phone

73-year-old fields phone calls from around the country from men diagnosed with breast cancer.

William Woodfill's habit of not using a washcloth in the shower may have saved his life. 

"I felt this lump one day ... underneath my left breast," he said. "I knew it shouldn't have been there." 

For the next month, he checked the lump, monitoring its progression as it grew from the size of a pea to the size of a lima bean.  

"He couldn't stick anything in it, so he said that we had to take it out," he said of the surgeon who attempted to biopsy the growth with a syringe. 

It was breast cancer. 

"I went back fully expecting not to have cancer," said Woodfill, who noted that about 1,500 men a year are diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States. "And that was the big stunner … it flipped the switch from things are normal to things not being normal." 

Woodfill had a mastotomy—an incision into the breast to remove the lump.  

"That's when the fun started," he said. "I got through all of the pain and suffering and all of the tubes and drainage and all of that stuff."

Two months later, he went bowhunting. 

"The hospital asked me if I wanted my name on the list for people to call and talk," he said. "I said sure, why not." 

That was 20 years ago. Since then, Woodfill, who has lived in Sussex for 11 years, has fielded about a dozen calls from men diagnosed with breast cancer. Initially, he received phone calls every three or four months. Then it dropped off to a couple each year. Now, he's in a several-year lull. 

"It's just me, the telephone and you," the 73-year-old explained.

They are unsure, full of doubt and scared when they call the retired Mercury Marine engineer.

"They call to talk about things that go on that you do and need to think about. I start babbling, like I am doing now," he said during a recent phone interview with Patch.com. "After a while, he gets enough information that he is comfortable." 

He has received calls from far away places such as California, Washington and New York. Woodfill said he fields phone calls because men dealing with breast cancer need guidance and support, which he did not receive when he was diagnosed.  

"There was no primary sort of lead in to it take make me feel like I was going to be OK," he said. "If they have a question to help them feel comfortable about what they are going to be doing, that's what I like to do." 

During one phone call, a male breast cancer patient shared with Woodfill a story about receiving a new breast. 

"He said that he did a lot of stuff on the beach and didn't like not having a nipple, so he had one tattooed in place," he said with a chuckle.  

He refers men to Malebreastcancer.ca, a Web site started by Floridian Herb Wagner, a fellow male breast cancer survivor.

"He has a lot of dupe on there," Woodfill said, attributing some of the decrease in phone calls to him to web sites like Wagner's. "It's dropped off because there is more education now. Along with women's breast cancer, we all know that men get it to."  

We also know that men also get better and go on with their lives when the cancer is detected early, Woodfill explained.  

"The guy who have died from it is the guy that had waited too long," he said.

William Woodfill's telephone number is (262) 820-0856.  

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