Eric Passmore knows firsthand the meaning of gratitude and never taking a single day for granted. Around the age of 40, Eric grew abnormally tired. After countless doctor visits and “thousands of tests”, he received a diagnosis: hepatitis C, a diagnosis that required a liver transplant to survive. After spending 15 months on the transplant waiting list, Eric received his lifesaving organ on June 8, 2000. For the next 16 years, Eric lived each day with gratitude and a happy-go-lucky spirit – until one day, everything changed. On a Thursday in May 2016, Eric was at a transplant clinic and pointed out a small lump in his chest to his transplant doctor. “He instructed me to contact my primary care doctor. The next day, I was at the doctor’s office. By Monday, I had a mammogram. The biopsy took place that Wednesday. That following Monday, I was sitting on the golf course when I got the call from my doctor with the diagnosis: breast cancer. I was shocked,” Eric said. By Wednesday, Eric was scheduled for a mastectomy and the removal of two lymph nodes to see if the cancer had spread.
Eric before mastectomy surgery
Then came the good news and bad news. The good news: the cancer had not spread. The bad news: he needed chemotherapy. Making things more complicated, Eric was a sample size of one. “My doctor told me I was her third male with breast cancer, but the only male with breast cancer AND an organ transplant,” Eric said. As a result, both his cancer team and transplant team collaborated on a treatment plan to ensure the elimination of cancer without compromising the health of his transplanted liver. Two weeks after his mastectomy, he started round one of chemotherapy. “I sat down in a chair and waited as they hooked the tube up to my port. An hour goes by as you watch the medicine leave the bag, down the tube and into your body,” Eric said. “I thought I would instantly feel the usual side effects during the first treatment, but I didn’t feel a thing.” It wasn’t until after his third treatment when the side effects kicked in. “My family and I walked out to the Enzo parking lot after finishing dinner. It was really windy that night,” Eric said. “I noticed all this hair flying around the parking lot. It took a second before I realized it was mine. That’s when it hit me. I felt terrible – I wanted to crawl in a hole and never come out.” From that point on, the chemo continued to wreak havoc on Eric’s body. The little hair he had left turned grey, food tasted nasty and he lost a lot of weight. Relief finally came on July 26, 2016, when he finished his last round of chemo and doctors declared him cancer-free.
Eric ringing the bell on his last day of chemo
Months after finishing chemotherapy, Eric started to regain his spunk for life. Physically, his hair grew back (perk – it came back darker, and he even got his infamous mustache back). Today, Eric is back to advocating for donation/transplantation education, and finds himself sneaking in awareness about breast cancer among men. “If I could say one thing to the men out there, don’t take your male status for granted. You’re not immune to anything – especially breast cancer. If you feel something, ask. You can’t be afraid of what’s ahead,” Eric said.