Thursday, February 28, 2013

Male. 24. Ductal Carcinoma In Situ Stage 1 Breast Cancer. Meet Bret Miller.


by Katherine Ferrara & Allison W. Gryphon

“You have breast cancer” isn’t exactly what the typical 24 year old male expects to hear from his doctor. Bret Miller thought the lump on his chest might be something, but the 2010 diagnosis certainly was not what he was expecting. Holding down two jobs, as a bartender and pool/ice rink manager, Bret was faced with the third job of battling cancer and opted for a fourth, starting the Bret Miler 1T Foundation for breast cancer education and awareness.

What kind of cancer did you fight?
Ductal Carcinoma In Situ Stage 1 Breast Cancer.

Is there a history of cancer in your family?
There is history on both sides of my family. There have been seventeen cases of breast cancer in my cousins. All women.

Do you know where your cancer came from?
I don't have the gene.

Did you think you were at risk?
Not in a million years would I have ever thought I would have breast cancer or any of the cancers.

What type of treatment did you go through?
I had a mastectomy on my right breast in May 2010. From July 2010 through September 2010, I went through four rounds of chemotherapy.

What was your recovery from surgery and treatment like?
Throughout my entire diagnosis, surgery and treatment, I missed a total of one week of work. I was never tired from the chemo. I got lucky with everything that happened.

Did you experience any side effects from treatments or surgery?
I lost my hair. I was never nauseous. I had the body aches once only because I forgot to take my steroid pills before and after my second treatment. I took them the following day and felt better.

Are you in any type of treatment now?
No treatments!

What is your medical maintenance schedule now?
I have check ups every six months.

How important did you find diet and exercise in getting through treatment and surgery?
It is very important to do diet and exercise while going through treatment and surgery, but don’t push yourself if you don’t have the energy. Also if your blood cell counts are low, do not go to the gym because of possible germs and infections that could result. I had to stay away from the gym for a couple of weeks due to low counts.

How did you get through the day-to-day of your cancer fight?
I went through every day like nothing had ever happened. It never phased me that I had breast cancer. I still worked forty plus hours a week at the pool I manage and worked an additional two shifts a week bar tending.

How did you fight cancer emotionally?
I had the support system of my family and friends to get through it all. But I never had the mind set of, “Oh poor me, I have breast cancer.” It was just a roadblock in my amazing life.

What does being a survivor feel like?
Amazing. I am living life to the fullest and not having a care in the world. I am a warrior and proving it every day.

What advice do you have for other cancer fighters?
You will beat this. With the determination and support of your family and friends, you will have no trouble kicking it’s ass.

What advice do you have for medical professionals?
Don’t forget about men. Check them for breast cancer too. Cancer does not discriminate so neither should they. I had mentioned my lump to my doctor when I was seventeen, but he never looked at it. He just said it was a calcium buildup and that I was becoming a man and it would go away. It never did.

What advice do you have for friends, family and co-workers of cancer fighters?
Be very supportive. This is an easy time for the patient to think they won’t beat this or that they are in this alone when they aren’t. Also use humor, it is nature’s best cure.

How do you feel about the future? What are your hopes and dreams?
I am totally optimistic. Anything that comes my way I will conquer. My hopes and dreams are to expand The Bret Miller 1T Foundation to a whole new level and let others out there know that cancer is very beatable by building awareness, and that early detection is key in the fight against breast cancer.

For you in one word, what is cancer?

To learn more about Bret Miller and the Brett Miller 1T Foundation visit

To read our interview with Brett’s mother, Peggy, Click Here

Thursday, February 21, 2013



by Kathryn Ferrara & Allison W. Gryphon

Peggy Eddy Miller. Married for thirty-one years. Four kids. Owner of two family run Kansas City businesses, MMG Frozen Drink Rentals Company and Memory Productions Videos. At 57, Peggy was happily living life when her 24 year old son, Bret, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

What do you do when you get that call? After fear, shock and the feeling of helplessness ripped through her world, Peggy pulled it together.

Surrounded by family and friends, she fought for her son by educating herself, being pro-active with the doctors and holding tight to prayer. Peggy took on cancer as her son’s primary caretaker and self-proclaimed “administrative assistant” which as any cancer fighter will tell you, is of the upmost importance.

After a mastectomy and four rounds of chemo, there is no evidence of disease in Bret’s body.

With her newfound knowledge and fierce courage, Peggy supports her son’s campaign to raise awareness and fight breast cancer through The Bret Miller 1T Foundation and through sharing her perspective as both mother and advocate.

How did cancer come into your life?
It took seven years and Bret with the lump under his right nipple and a doctor finally thinking it was something more than calcium.

When was your son diagnosed?
April 28, 2010. Bret was driving from his first job to his second and the doctor calls his cell phone, not even asking could he talk or anything, and says, “I just wanted to let you know you have cancer.”  Bret was on a busy traffic way and almost wrecked his SUV.  Then he called his dad. We both were at our office desks and I said, “Was that Bret?” and he said, “Yes. The doctor called and he has breast cancer.”

How did you know what to do?
My instincts took hold and I called the doctor, who was not available of course, so I called a good friend who works in pathology, Mary. She said, “Calm down. He will get through this.”  She told me to get the pathology report and she would let me know what was going on.  I got the report.  The first words out of Mary’s mouth were, “Bret can beat this.”  That was all I needed to hear. 

How did your world change with your son’s diagnosis?
We were in cancer overload.

What was the hardest part of watching Bret fight cancer?
Not being able to take the pain away.

What was the best part of fighting cancer with Bret?
The people we have met along the journey.

How did you get through the day-to-day of Bret's cancer fight?
Lots of prayer.

What advice do you have for friends, family and co-workers of cancer fighters?
Pray and give support.

What advice do you have for medical professionals?
Listen to your patients.

What advice do you have for other cancer fighters?
Fight. Do not give up.

What are your hopes and dreams for Bret?
To continue spreading the word of awareness and early detection.

For you, in one word, what is cancer?

To learn more about Peggy, Bret and The Bret Miller 1T Foundation, visit

Next week we will post our interview with Peggy's son Bret.

Friday, February 8, 2013

A United Front: Filmmaker Allison W. Gryphon’s Battle with Breast Cancer


by Derek Martin Wade

If you were to ask Allison about her bout with stage III breast cancer she would not tell you about the three surgeries, six rounds of chemotherapy or month of radiation treatments she endured. She would probably not tell you about the tattoos burned into her chest that guided the lasers to the exact location of the cancer cells but she might tell you that she didn’t have a ‘bout’ with cancer. It was not a sparring match but a dirty fight, not a skirmish or a battle but a war.  Allison W. Gryphon; award-winning screenwriter, novelist and filmmaker brought every weapon in her arsenal to cancer and now she has two more; her forthcoming film What the F@#- is Cancer and Why Does Everybody Have It? and the TheWhy?

In Gryphon’s new film, What the F@#- is Cancer and Why Does Everybody Have It?, set to join the film festival circuit this summer, people are asked to describe cancer in one word. In my conversation with Allison, she said that when she asked her oncologist, who was at first stumped by the question, he pinpointed it in three words, “Enemy number one.”

Allison never expected to get “Enemy number one” let alone a cancer that had progressed as far as it had. She was in an age group of women who were less likely to get cancer; she was 38 years old, well below the 45 year olds and older group who were ten times more likely to be diagnosed with the same disease. In addition, a history of breast cancer did not exist in her family. Allison was also a self-admitted pilates addict and was in excellent physical shape. She cared about her body and what she put into it. She ate a healthy diet but was diagnosed with cancer anyway.

Three days after her diagnosis, Allison sat in a coffee house drinking the best coffee she had ever had and she felt “wide awake.” Everything that mattered, mattered so much more. She would no longer live her life the same and nothing would be taken for granted. It was a wake-up call.

Allison W. Gryphon did not live her life preparing for a battle with cancer but when cancer did come she was in top fighting form. German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “The best weapon against an enemy is another enemy” and Allison was about to become breast cancer’s worst enemy. Allison believes that it is her healthy lifestyle that contributed to her success and gave her the strength to carry on through the rigorous chemotherapy and the cancer cell-killing radiation. In addition, she enriched her body by redefining her healthy diet by “eating clean;” a diet of organic, unrefined, minimally processed and locally grown food including antibiotic-free and growth hormone-free meats.

Allison believes that a cancer patient has to be a cancer fighter, to be proactive in their own recovery and to ask for help. She says “Fighting cancer is a team sport.” Allison’s team includes an army of friends and the The Why? Foundation.

There are hundreds of breast cancer websites that provide information in black and white text, statistics in graphs and pie charts bordered by pop up ads selling everything pink. Websites like these are filled with the ‘whats;’ What is Cancer? What are the symptoms? What are the treatments? What are the drugs and what are the chances? Nothing in these websites, including the website for the largest fundraiser for cancer research in the world aside from the U.S government, offers support for the newly diagnosed, provides emotional support for the recovering patient and answers the question ‘why?’

Allison Gryphon’s The Why? Foundation strives to provide a place for cancer patients and survivors to find answers, seek out support, community and real help. This place is an outlet for Allison’s experience as patient and survivor offering guideposts for others as well as a place for other sufferers and survivors to share their experiences. The Why? Foundation tells the recovering patient what to expect after treatment like how the simple things in our daily lives suddenly become very difficult.

There were slightly more than 230,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in the U.S. in 2011 of whom Allison W. Gryphon was one of them. That year almost forty thousand women died from the disease in the U.S. alone. That’s more than all the highway deaths and almost three times the homicide rate in the U.S. Allison produced her film for those cancer patients recently diagnosed and the additional 500,000 and more who are in varying stages of treatment as a means to create a united front to combat the deadly disease.

Today Allison W. Gryphon is believed to be cancer-free, is checked quarterly and is still fighting.