Sharing His Story

March/April 2002

Reading time min

Sharing His Story

Courtesy Mountain Pacific Quality Health Foundation

Let's get one thing straight from the outset: Stuart Kellner is not a victim. He had cancer, he got it treated, and he got better.

He’s not the kind of guy to suddenly re-evaluate his life. He was enjoying life before cancer, and he’s enjoying life after cancer. No, Kellner’s style is illustrated by his actions. Get the mastectomy, tuck the hanging bag that catches the draining fluids from his chest under his arm, and hop on his mountain bike for a ride.

Occasionally he gets strange looks in the gym when someone sees those squiggly lines on the right side of his chest that look like a smiley face. But really, he couldn’t care less. If someone asks, he simply explains. Yes, men get breast cancer, and yes, you should be alert to the possibility.

That’s how Kellner, a former Stanford football co-captain now living in Helena, Mont., has become something of a spokesman for awareness of the disease. He doesn’t think much about it, doesn’t bring it up—but if people inquire, he’s happy to talk about it.

“He is a very open and generous person who would do anything to help others,” says his friend Jack McMahon, a surgeon and corporate medical director of the Mountain Pacific Quality Health Foundation. “I know that if I were to call him up to talk to a group tomorrow, he would do it.”

Kellner has spoken at the Race for the Cure and has appeared in local television and newspaper advertisements arranged by the health foundation. “A lot of people simply don’t realize that men get breast cancer,” he says.

“I’ve often thought, ‘If I had just felt a lump, I might have ignored it,’ ” Kellner reflects. The first hint came when his secretary noticed a spot on his shirt, which Kellner attributed to the crumbs of some buttery cookies his wife, Mikal, had baked. A few weeks later, the secretary saw another spot, which Kellner assumed was grease from his mountain bike. It wasn’t until he discovered blood on his shirt one day while playing with his son that he finally had the discharge checked out.

Now 54 and in remission for eight years, “I really have put it behind me,” Kellner says. “I don’t think my life has changed much at all.” He’s still the same active man he was when playing defensive end at Stanford and rooming with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jim Plunkett, ’70. He still bikes as often as he can and likes to try new sports, like surfing with his son in Hawaii. And he’s still the playful guy who used to join his football teammates in creating golf-cart slalom courses between the trees around Wilbur.

After graduating with a degree in political science, Kellner went to law school at the University of Montana. He has now spent 28 years with a small Helena firm, handling a broad range of cases. “In a small town, you do most everything,” Kellner says.

Including answering some personal questions that might save other men’s lives.

Brian Eule, ’01

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