By Melissa Barlow-Fischer
Since June is the month that we celebrate our Fathers, I’m honored to tell you about an exceptional man: Judge James E. Barlow, my dad.
He was a very charismatic, intelligent, respected State Representative, District Attorney, and District Court Judge. He inspired me to become an attorney myself. Larger than life, he was one of those men who was 6’2” but seemed much taller, with a deep booming voice and an impressive physical presence.
He carried the BRCA 2 genetic mutation.
I was the first in my family to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. Then in 2006, while I was attending my first NBCC Annual Advocacy Training Conference (now the Annual Advocate Summit), I received a call from my sister. The lump she had found earlier was, in fact, breast cancer. She and I had the genetic testing, and we both tested positive for a BRCA 2 mutation. Well my parents had to know which one of them carried this genetic mutation from which my sister and I had inherited this disease, so they were both tested immediately. We found out the genetic mutation for breast cancer, BRCA 2, came from our dad.
A few months later, my dad noticed a lump in his own breast. And in 2007, at the age of 78, he was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Because he was a well-known public figure in San Antonio, the local paper ran a front-page story about his battle with breast cancer. During this time Robin Roberts from Good Morning America (GMA) was going through her personal battle with breast cancer, and as they were researching, they found the article about my dad. They contacted him and soon ran a story on GMA about male breast cancer. He was not overly happy about being the featured source in the story, in fact he often said he never intended to be “the poster boy for male breast cancer.” But he did think it was important for people to hear that men get breast cancer, and that they can pass a breast cancer genetic mutation on to their children.
In late 2009 he was diagnosed with a new primary cancer—a GI cancer of unknown origin—which ultimately took his life in May of 2010.
So this Father’s Day, I will celebrate his life and tell his story once again. If you are fortunate enough to share this day with your father, please hug him tight for me.