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Men Against Breast Cancer

October 11, 2012, 6:06 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Men Against Breast Cancer
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

We often think of breast cancer impacting women, but men also deal with the disease. Not only can men be diagnosed, but when their wives, sisters, or mothers are diagnosed, they also deal with a lot of physical and emotional stress.

That's why an event at Avera is reaching out to men and partners of those with cancer.

Rob Bortnem doesn't mind wearing pink or a bracelet that says to "Fight Like A Girl."

"The women have to go through a lot of stuff and it's something little you can do to show your support," Rob said.

Support is a topic the Brookings man knows a lot about since his wife was diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer during the last holiday season.

"He did have to do a lot of cleaning and definitely with our kids. Our youngest one was one and a half and she required a lot of extra care," Rob's wife Jennifer Bortnem said.

Not only do caregivers of cancer patients go through a lot of physical and emotional stress, but they also often feel like they can't complain.

"He was very positive and optimistic. 'Just don't worry about it. Whatever it is, we'll get through it,'" Jennifer said.

But Rob admits now that he tried to be his wife's rock, even though he didn't feel that confident.

"It was hard. You don't know what's coming. I think the worst part was waiting on the tests," Rob said.

"I find the men stepping up to the plate and saying, 'I'll do the vacuuming this week. I'll take over the grocery list,'" Avera Nurse Practitioner Nancy Terveen said.

As a breast health navigator, Terveen guides cancer patients through their treatment. She says men often are unsure how to help and they want to fix the problem.  But cancer is not an easy fix.

"Just being there to listen, allowing them to be scared or cry," Avera Nurse Practitioner Nancy Terveen said.

While it has been a difficult experience for the Bortnem family, Jennifer is now cancer-free and enjoying more time with her husband and two daughters.

"I think it's definitely made us closer, especially me with the kids. She did a lot of stuff with the kids before," Rob said.

"You realize all the blessings you have in your life and you just realize what's more important," Jennifer said.

The Partners in Survival, Men Against Breast Cancer workshop is being held until 8 p.m. Thursday at the Avera Prairie Center.

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