Santa Claus is a survivor – and he’s using his story to save the lives of others.
When Gordon Mahathey was diagnosed with stage I invasive ductal carcinoma – breast cancer – in February 2014, Mahathey, better known to many in the Tennessee Valley as Santa Claus, knew it was a diagnosis he wasn’t meant to keep to himself.
“I don’t mind speaking to anyone about what I’ve gone through, and I don’t mind anybody using my name out there in public,” Mahathey said. “If we can get the word out and save one person’s life then we’ve done a good job.”
Some 2,470 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, with approximately 460 men dying from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society, which makes it about 100 times less common in males than females, but no less deadly.
Signs and symptoms of the disease in men, according to the Mayo Clinic include:
• A lump or thickening in breast tissue
• Dimpling, puckering redness, scaling or other changes in breast skin
• Nipple changes, such as redness, scaling, or turning inward
• Nipple discharge
For Mahathey, it started it with a lump above his left breast and an irritation below it. Upon receiving his diagnosis he opted to have his left breast, and five lymph nodes removed. Today he is on the breast cancer drug tamoxifen, sees his surgeon twice a year, comes to Clearview Cancer Institute every three months, and thanks God every morning for a brand new day.
“We’re very thankful we wake up,” Mahathey said of he and his wife, “Mrs. Claus,” Ellen.
His advice to other men is simple.
“Make sure when you have a physical you have your breasts checked,” Mahathey said. “It doesn’t take long to jump from stage I to stage IV.”