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Breast Cancer: Not Only a Woman’s Disease

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Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2019 9:00 am

This is the second of four articles in a series recognizing October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

For October awareness month, Bob Kinzel shared with the Mountains News the story of his fight against breast cancer as a male.

In June of 2009, Kinzel and his wife moved to their dream home in Lake Arrowhead after their kids went off to college. It was something they had been talking about since they got married at the young age of nineteen. It was a hot summer that year and Kinzel was working on his new deck. He had his shirt off, as one does in the heat of the summer, when his wife Carol noticed his chest wasn’t looking like it usually did and pointed it out.

“I told her I was just getting old and things were starting to sag,” Kinzel said through some laughter.

Carol would not let up. She insisted he go to the doctor because she was concerned about the way his chest looked. It took until September of that year, when Kinzel had an appointment with the doctor for a completely unrelated reason, before he mentioned it to his doctor. He could hear his wife’s concerns lingering in the back of his head and built the courage to bring it up to his doctor as he sat in the waiting room.

“I can be a very hard-headed stubborn person and there’s no way in the world I would have said something if it wasn’t for my wife,” Kinzel said. “I can remember to this day sitting in the doctor’s office and thinking ‘I do not want to mention this, this is embarrassing, this is stupid.’ You know, I would certainly be dead by now if I had not.” Kinzel said, making the reality of the situation set in.

Kinzel showed his doctor what was going on, but even the doctor didn’t take it seriously at first and chuckled at him. A male with breast cancer?

A month later, at another appointment, Kinzel’s doctor brought up his concern after he had been researching it more and found that a retracted nipple is indeed a sign of male breast cancer and wanted Kinzel to have an ultrasound. The ultrasound found a small tumor that was then biopsied and diagnosed as an invasive ductal carcinoma stage one. The tumor was slowly trying to make its way to Kinzel’s lymph nodes, which could have been a significantly more serious diagnosis had he waited much longer.

“My wife saved my life because the tumor became invasive and it started to move, so if I had gone another year ignoring it, then it would have gone to my lymph nodes and they would have not necessarily been able to trace it back to being breast cancer,” Kinzel said.

The diagnosis meant a mastectomy and four rounds of chemo. Kinzel took seven weeks off of work for recovery time after the surgery, but continued back to work at the Parks and Rec office in Burbank throughout his chemo. He knew it was important to get out of the house and be around people he enjoyed to lift his spirit and, because of this, was awarded the first-ever Employee of the Year award by the city of Burbank.

Despite all this, Kinzel said that what really helped his positivity and mindset was being asked to be the chair of the 2010 Relay For Life event in Burbank, held by the American Cancer Society. Kinzel had been an active participant for the past two years, forming a team with his church for the Relay For Life events. With his recent diagnosis though, the event had become even more important and personal to him. It gave him a reason to keep fighting harder than before, and not just for himself but for everyone who was currently fighting or had battled the disease.

“You start off by celebrating those who have survived cancer. Then the teams get together and they walk all night until the morning. The nighttime is the worst part of cancer and chemotherapy. It’s when you feel the most alone and sick. So the teams walk all night and don’t stop till morning and we show that were going to keep that fight and strength against cancer going strong.” Kinzel said describing the fundraising event.

Kinzel has gone on to become a Hero of Hope speaker and has given speeches all over Southern California at American Cancer Society events. Ten years cancer-free and Kinzel is still inspired and passionate about bringing awareness to Breast Cancer, especially for men. From large crowds to simple conversations at the post office he says sometimes just wearing a pink shirt is all it takes to spark a conversation with someone about breast cancer.

One in 833 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019 and 40% of men who show symptoms have already progressed to stage three or four. Kinzel gives his wife credit for giving him the strength to ask the question to his doctor, but don’t let the stigma of breast cancer being a woman’s disease stop you or any you know with questions from asking or seeking help.

For more information about participating at a Relay For Life event, or to donate to the American Cancer Society, visit

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