SM East grad part of national ‘Models of Courage’ campaign honoring breast cancer survivors

Bret Miller (left) and fellow ‘Model of Courage’ Tina Herold of Overland Park at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Kansas City.

When the thousands of fans watching yesterday’s Chiefs halftime show honoring breast cancer patients saw survivors carrying a giant flag onto the field, chances are they weren’t expecting to see someone who looked like Bret Miller.

That doesn’t bother the 26-year-old Prairie Village resident and 2004 SM East graduate. In fact, he considers his role as a male breast cancer survivor an honor – and a chance to do real good.

“I was 24 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” he said. “I had no idea — no idea — that it could affect someone so young. And you just don’t think of it as something that hits men. But it does. And I want to help raise awareness of that fact.”

Miller is one of eleven men and women from across the country chosen by Ford’s “Warriors in Pink” program as “Models of Courage.” He’s appeared in print and video promotions for the program, which raises money for breast cancer organizations.

It’s an opportunity for Miller to turn a scary chapter from his life into a source of inspiration for others, especially male breast cancer patients who may not feel comfortable discussing their disease with others.

“Working with ‘Warriors in Pink’ has helped me do something beyond just the ‘wake up, go to work, eat’ routine,” he said. “I feel like I can reach out and help other people. And help other men deal with breast cancer.”

Miller says doctors had told him for years that the small lump he’d had on his chest since high school was probably just a calcium deposit. But after the lump became sore and he noticed occasional discharges from the area, he knew it might be something more serious. A doctor diagnosed him with State 1 breast cancer in April, 2010. Just weeks later, he had a mastectomy. Today, he’s been cancer free for more than two years.

“I know that as a man, it can be hard to talk about,” he said. “I didn’t want to tell anyone about it for a couple weeks after my diagnosis. But it’s important for men to feel comfortable asking to have things checked out. You know your body best. So get things looked at until you have answers that make you comfortable.”