Married cancer researchers diagnosed with cancer

November 21, 2012 5:00:18 PM PST
A couple on the front lines in the fight against cancer has to battle it themselves. They both developed cancer, the same type of cancer.

Dr. Oliver Bogler and his wife Irene are both cancer researchers. They both work at M.D. Anderson, where they occasionally have time for coffee. And they both were diagnosed with breast cancer.

"We should go to Vegas now. You do you wonder what are the odds and I think that's why it took me a little longer to decide to deal with it because I felt it was so unlikely," Oliver said.

Unlikely that it should happen twice to the same family, that it's the same type of breast cancer, the same stage, and they were the same age, 46.

"I had six months of chemotherapy, and then I had surgery, I had a mastectomy and then I had radiation," Irene said.

Irene, whose research is finding genes that lead to breast cancer, had almost reached her five-year cancer free milestone.

"A few weeks before that, we had the news for Oliver," Irene said.

"Because of Irene's history, it was very odd for me to come out and say, hey I think I have the same thing you had. It's a very unusual diagnosis so I was really concerned about feeling stupid and feeling foolish," Oliver said.

But 1 percent of breast cancer does occur in men, and doctors say they shouldn't delay or feel embarrassed about checking out a suspicious lump.

"By the time he finishes all the treatment he's going to go through and his chemotherapy and surgery he should have a good prognosis, similar to a woman with Stage 2 breast cancer," said Dr. Sharon Giordano, a men's breast cancer specialist.

So Oliver has begun the same treatments his wife had, and this time she is by his side.

"I could have benefited by having it checked out a few months earlier," he said.

Their roles have changed of patient and caregiver. But they are facing his breast cancer just as they faced hers, with dignity and together.


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