When death came calling 18 months ago, Val Lucier put it in its place.
Tears filled the 74-year-old's brown eyes as he described his online research of Paget's Breast Nipple Cancer, a rare form of the disease.
"When something pops out and starts leaking, you "discover' it," Lucier said of the green liquid resembling anti-freeze that oozed from his right nipple.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 1,910 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Lucier said he wants to share his story because he wants men to know they are not immune.
"It's not about men or women," he said, "it's about breasts. If something looks odd, challenge it. No tsetse fly bit me."
Lucier is in good company with his campaign: Both Peter Criss, a drummer with the rock band Kiss; and actor Richard Roundtree, who gained fame starring in the 1970s "Shaft" movies, have given interviews about fighting the disease.
"There is no stigma," said Lucier, a retired IBM strategic planner, U.S Air Force veteran and writer on condo and homeowner association issues. "You're not a sissy."
A month before seeing a doctor, he noticed his breast had developed a horizontal crease and itched around the areola. It would be three more days before it was confirmed. But he knew. And though he shares everything with Doris, his wife of 53 years, he kept the news of his new adversary to himself.
"When your family knows, they pat you on the back and say, 'It's OK,' '" Lucier said. "But at the end of three days, I told death, 'I ain't ready for you. And when I am, that's when we'll talk.' "
Though the diagnosis shocked her, Doris forgave Val for not sharing his burden right away. After all, he helped her survive a year battling colon cancer in 1990.
"When you get cancer, you're on a journey by yourself and have to face it every day, even if you're cured," Doris Lucier said. "I suspected something was wrong because he was spending a lot of time on the patio, looking into the distance."
Val Lucier's risk factors included his age and family history: his mother had a double mastectomy. But he wasn't obese. And though he enjoyed three cigars a week prior to his diagnosis, he said he didn't inhale and only burned them outdoors.
He decided to figuratively put his opponent "away in a drawer" and stayed focused on the procedures as they came -- 12 in all --that removed his diseased breast and 22 lymph nodes.
After 135 appointments that included chemotherapy and radiation, he'll be more than happy to never see another doctor. And after enduring hair loss, fatigue, sometime numbness in his right arm where the lymph nodes were removed and fuzzy "chemo brain," Lucier said he's totally cured.
He is in the midst of a five-year estrogen inhibitor regimen that many female breast cancer survivors also follow.
Lucier said there is a 38 percent chance cancer could return by 2013. Over the next decade, there is a 52 percent chance of recurrence.
About his unrelenting adversary, death? It's still in that drawer, put away for another day.
"You've only got the present," said Lucier, who power washed his roof last month. It took him six days, two hours at a time. But, he said, "It's a great feeling I get, doing the little things. This guy is alive."
Staff Writer Linda Trischitta can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4233.