Mike Partain got the shock of his life five years ago when he was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 39. That he got breast cancer at all is surprising. It’s so rare that for every 100 women who get it, just one man will.
“Five years ago I was just an ordinary father of four, husband of 18 years. And one night, my then-wife gave me a hug and she felt a bump on my chest,” he said in an interview with Dr. Nancy Snyderman airing tonight at 10pm/9CT on NBC News’ Rock Center with Brian Williams.
When his doctor delivered the devastating news in a phone call, Partain’s first thought was, “What contest in hell did I win to deserve this?”
After his diagnosis, Partain was desperate to answer the question, “why”? He said, “I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I’ve never done drugs. There is no history of breast cancer in my family.”
But everything changed after he saw a news report, where a former Marine drill instructor named Jerry Ensminger told Congress how his 9-year-old daughter Janey died of leukemia, and that he believed her death was caused by drinking water at Camp Lejeune contaminated with chemicals.
“My knees buckled,” Mike said, “I grabbed the back of the couch and I sat there. I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is what happened.’”
The son of a Marine, Partain was born at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. He soon learned that there had been a long history of suspicion about the water at Camp Lejeune.
“The entire time my mother was pregnant with me, we were drinking high levels of tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, and benzene in our water” he said. Partain believes these chemicals caused his breast cancer.