Surviving and striving after breast cancer

Charmaine Mullin and Guy Cowden were among several Veterans who shared their personal stories of hope and survival at a Breast Cancer Awareness event held at Houston VA on Oct. 10. VA staff and Veterans from all eras gathered to celebrate cancer survivors. 

Mullin is an Army Veteran in the middle of the fight for her life. Diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2022, she is undergoing treatment at Houston VA. “Every day I get up, thank God and push through. Surviving and striving is my motto,” she shared.

Navy Veteran Cowden was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2020. He was initially taken aback by the diagnosis, but now counts his blessings: “Before my diagnosis, I had never known another man who had breast cancer. Now I start each day with gratitude and am thankful that I have another day to try and make the world a better place.” 

Male Veteran breast cancer survivor
Navy Veteran Guy Cowden

“We are with them every step of the way.”

“Cancer treatment is a journey, and at VA we are committed to helping and supporting our Veterans from diagnosis through treatment and on to surveillance,” said Dr. Christy Chai, an Air Force Veteran and assistant chief of Surgery at Houston VA. “We put the Veteran in the driver’s seat of their own cancer journey, but we are there with them every step of the way. We are all in this together.”

Female Veteran breast cancer survivor
Army Veteran Charmaine Mullin

Cutting her waist-length dreadlocks and dying her hair was one of the first things Mullin did to take control of her own cancer fight.  “My hair was my crown and glory, but I knew I had to buckle up for this fight. I come to VA every week, and the chemo nurses have been phenomenal. They really care about patients and keep our spirits high,” Mullin said.

Educating other men about the risks of breast cancer is important to Cowden. “My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the doctor immediately warned my sister about an increased risk of getting breast cancer. Sadly, that same message wasn’t relayed to her sons. I even had a hard time finding a breast cancer support group for men. Getting the word out to male Veterans is critical,” he said.

“Women Veterans are our fastest growing population of Veterans in Houston,” Chai added. “Statistically, women Veterans are diagnosed with cancer at a higher rate than non-Veterans.  We take great pride in offering state-of-the-art cancer care to each and every Veteran who needs it.”