Ten years ago, Arnaldo Silva noticed a lump on his chest and decided to get it checked out.
“I’m sitting in an office with about 80 women, everybody’s staring at me. And this lady leaned over she says, ‘Are you waiting for somebody?’ and I said ‘No, I’m here for me,’ ” the 66-year-old tells his daughter, Vanessa Silva-Welch, during a recent visit to StoryCorps. “And I remember the doctor, he looked at me, he says ‘You have male breast cancer. And we gotta move right away.’ And then I was told that you had to get tested.”
Because Arnaldo carried a mutated BRCA2 gene, the doctor recommended that his children also get genetic testing to see if they had it as well. A mutated BRCA gene increases a person’s risk for developing certain cancers, including breast and ovarian cancer.
“I took the genetic testing and went to do the mammogram,” she says. “The technician put the film up to the light and I could remember my stomach cringing.”
After abnormal results came back from the mammogram and a subsequent biopsy, it was confirmed: Vanessa also had breast cancer.
“All of a sudden, we had to go get chemo together,” Arnaldo says. “And everybody kept telling me ‘You have breast cancer? Isn’t that a woman’s disease?’ You know, but you were the first to say, ‘Dad, we’re gonna do this.'”
During the process, Vanessa would call her dad because he was the only one “who would really know what I’m going through right now. … And there was never sugarcoating anything.”