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The Shewells are both breast cancer survivors and are each other's biggest supporter

By Nancy Arcayna

LAST UPDATED: 1:34 p.m. HST, Oct 5, 2010

Pam and Dennis Shewell have lots of things in common. The Kailua couple share an affinity for Corvettes and cocker spaniels, and both are looking forward to celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary this month.

The Shewells also are both breast cancer survivors.

Pam, 61, was diagnosed in 1991. Dennis, 63, was just recently diagnosed with breast cancer, far more rare in men than in women, and is undergoing chemotherapy treatments that will end Oct. 21.

The couple plan to participate in the Susan B. Komen Foundation's Race for the Cure on Oct. 17 in celebration of their survivorship. This year's theme is "Sweet 16, Pretty in Pink," marking the 16th running of the event. The run/walk is intended to raise awareness for the fight against breast cancer and to celebrate breast cancer survivors and honor those who lost their battle to the disease.

According to the Komen Foundation, an estimated 39,840 women and 390 men will die this year from breast cancer in the United States.

Proceeds from the Hawaii event fund local research and treatment. About 6,500 participants are expected this year, approximately 10 percent of them breast cancer survivors, according to Nina Rappeline, race chairwoman.

"Komen's Race for the Cure brings a message of hope. Our goal this year is $550,000," said Rappeline, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 and underwent radiation treatment.

"As a survivor, it's always heartwarming to see so many other survivors there and doing so well. And it's heartwarming to see so many people joining together for a cause."

Cancer touched the Shewells even before Pam's diagnosis. In 1990 she was told she had Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer involving the immune system. "That was a real shocker," she said.

After she finished treatment for that disease, doctors found malignancies in her breasts during a routine mammogram. "Fortunately, they caught it early enough," Shewell said.

She had a mastectomy and was treated with the drug Tamoxifen but didn't need radiation or chemotherapy.

Then in 2001, Dennis was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was started on a hormone therapy, followed by brachytherapy in which radioactive seeds were implanted in the prostate gland to kill the cancer. That was about a year before he retired as a supervising electrician at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe.

Considering their encounters with the disease, the possibility of a recurrence of cancer haunted the couple in the years to follow, but they never would have imagined what happened next.

This past Feb. 12, Dennis felt a sharp pain in his left breast. He found a small lump that was diagnosed as an abscess, and he was prescribed antibiotics.

When the abscess didn't go away, his doctor decided in March that a biopsy was needed. "When they told me it was cancer, I went into shock. I didn't hear anything else that the doctor was saying," Dennis said.

Since such a small percentage of males are diagnosed with breast cancer, there's not a lot of information available online about the disease in men, and Shewell said he found a lot of misinformation.

According to the American Cancer Association, an estimated 1,970 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in men in the United States this year.

Shewell said that when he shares his story with others, many folks react with surprise: "That can't be. ... Men don't get breast cancer," he said.

He hopes that by talking to others, he can dispel the myth that only women suffer from the disease.

"There is not enough emphasis placed on men having breast cancer," he said.

Symptoms for men include a lump or swelling in the chest area, dimpled or puckered skin, a nipple that is inverted, redness of the nipple or breast skin or discharge.

In April, Dennis Shewell had a mastectomy followed by radiation treatments. He started chemotherapy treatments in June, with 16 treatments scheduled over a 20-week period. With her husband's chemotherapy treatments nearing an end, Pam Shewell said she's planning a special lunch date to celebrate.

The shewells continue to maintain a positive attitude despite their multiple battles with cancer.

"Cancer hasn't slowed me down," Dennis Shewell said. "I'm still president of the Corvette Club. I've been active in the club for about 20 years. The cars definitely provide an outlet."

The companionship of their cocker spaniels, Rusty and Tabitha, has also helped. "Rusty definitely keeps us entertained," Pam Shewell said. The dogs have been my best buddies as I go through cancer treatments, added her husband. Pam also continues to work for the Transportation Security Administration at Honolulu Airport.

Among the biggest lessons the couple say they learned during their experiences are the importance of taking care of one's body and enjoying life's simple pleasures.

"We plan for the future, but if there's something that we want to do now, we make sure not to wait too long," Pam Shewell said.




Susan B. Komen Foundation's Race for the Cure:
» What: 5K run/walk or a 1-mile fun walk
» When: 7 a.m. Oct. 17
» Where: Kapiolani Park
» Cost: $45 on race day from 5 to 6 a.m.; online registration is Saturday. Registration also available at Ward Warehouse during packet pickup, 3 to 7 p.m. Monday to Oct. 15, and 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 16
» To register: 754-6659 or e-mail


NEW YORK » The Sunday funnies will be in shades of pink ink on Sunday in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
King Features Syndicate Inc. said last Sunday that more than 50 cartoonists will participate. Each comic strip will also feature a pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness with the tag line, "Cartoonists Care." The pink strips will run in newspapers nationwide and online.
Participating strips include "Blondie," "Zits," "Dennis the Menace," "Family Circus," "Hagar the Horrible," "Mother Goose & Grimm," "Mallard Fillmore," "Beetle Bailey," "Dustin" and "The Pajama Diaries."
A gallery of the strips will be displayed on a ComicsGoPink website, where donations to seven breast cancer organizations will be accepted.


>> "Talk Story" with Breast Cancer Survivors: Breast cancer survivors share their stories and answer questions about their experiences from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Safeway store at 888 Kapahulu Avenue and 98-1277 Kaahumanu St. in Aiea. Representatives from the Susan G. Komen Foundation will be on hand to register individuals for the Race for the Cure and provide written materials about breast cancer.
» "Clip for the Cure": Select salons are offering specially priced haircuts or will donate a percentage of fees to the Regis Foundation for Breast Cancer. Select Supercuts are participating on Sunday; Regis Salons on Oct. 16. Visit for more details.
» "Pilates for Pink": Free classes will be offered from 8 to 9 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays in October when a donation is made to the Castle Medical Center. The classes are held at the Pilates Training Center Hawaii in Kailua. Visit
» "Pinking of You...": The YMCA of Honolulu and AlohaCare present "Pinking of You" from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 28 at Bishop Square's Tamarind Park. Call 531-3558. For more information on National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, visit
» Giving Aloha: Pilates Training Center Hawaii is offering scholarships for free private lessons to recovering breast cancer patients. Deadline to apply is Oct. 31. E-mail
» 6th Annual Survivors Conference: 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at Koolau Ballrooms in Kaneohe. This conference aims to support breast cancer survivors through education and encouragement. Registration fee is $10 for survivors; and $30 for co-survivors. Call 754-6659.


» Breast Cancer Support Group: 11 a.m. to noon Oct. 21 at Queen's Cancer Center. Call 545-8777. Free.
» Breast Cancer Support Groups: Kaiser Permanente offers support groups for women who have or have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and breast cancer survivors. Meetings are held once a month on the Windward side. Call 261-4424 for more information including location, dates, and times.
» Cancer Support Groups: 1:30 to 3 p.m. on the third Friday monthly; and 5:30 to 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday monthly at Castle Medical Center in the Wellness Center conference room. Free support group for cancer patients, survivors and anyone dealing with cancer. No registration necessary. Call 263-5400.
» Know Your Risks for Breast Cancer: 6 to 7 p.m. Oct. 21 at Kapiolani Women's Center. Learn what you can do to lower your breast cancer risks and the role of genetics in women with a family history of breast cancer. Free. Call 535-7000.

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