Raleigh man who lost wife to cancer fights on with Real Men Wear Pink

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – There’s a saying that goes life can only be understood backward but it must be lived forwards.

CBS 17 is celebrating Cancer Awareness Month with the Real Men Wear Pink campaign by taking a look at how breast cancer attacked the life of Kevin McAteer, of Raleigh.

​“That day, I was supposed to pick her up and just bring her home, and unfortunately I got a call to hustle up and I was the only one that came home that night,”​ McAteer recalled.

McAteer and his wife Pamela had just moved to Raleigh. They have a young family with three kids under the age of 6. Pamela has battled leukemia and was thought to be in remission, but received devastating news at her last checkup. Her leukemia had returned. ​

“I remember the nurse saying to me, ‘If there’s anything we can do, just let us know.’ And you just want to be respectful and kind at that moment, but you’re in a daze,” McAteer said. “And I just said, ‘If you have any advice on how to tell three little kids that their mom is not coming home, umm. I got to get up Creedmoor Road,’”​ McAteer said.

There are 13 traffic lights between McAteer’s house and UNC Rex. Every light is a battle with his own emotions. How would he go on? How would the kids go on without a mother?​

“I just brought the three of them upstairs, and I got on the floor so I could be eye-to-eye and just said, ‘Mama’s not coming home. Mama died,'” McAteer said.

“As soon as I said mama’s not coming home, the first one had to ask, ‘Well when is she coming home?’ And I said, ‘Jesus, you’re making this harder.”

Pamela McAteer died on Feb. 17, 2007. She was 36 years old. ​

Twelve years have passed. The kids are now older. Kevin McAteer is happily remarried. Add her children, and together they have six teenagers. But, never far from their memory is Pamela’s battle with cancer. That’s why Kevin is now part of the group Real Men Wear Pink. It is a group of men dedicated to raising awareness and money for the mission of saving lives from cancer. ​

“I think I have a responsibility as a man, as a father, and as a husband again to, you know, not only fight the fight, but to get other dads and other husbands to embrace this. This happens to be breast cancer awareness month but it doesn’t matter what cancer it is.”​ McAteer said.

Nearly 41,000 women are expected to die from breast cancer this year. The money raised by Real Men Wear Pink is used for everything from clinical research to driving patients to and from doctor visits.​

“I’ve got four women that I live with at home, and even though they have reduced the amount of fatalities with breast cancer over the last three decades, the numbers are terrible,” McAteer said. “And, that one of these four girls I live with are going to probably have to battle breast cancer.”

That’s why the group Real Men Wear Pink continues to fight. That’s why McAteer continues to fight — so that no other father has to tell their children that mama is gone. ​

“I fight for them. I fight to take that 40 or 50 percent, reduce fatality rate, and get that sucker to 100 percent. No more fatalities from this,”​ McAteer said.

Real Men Wear Pink is hosting its Making Strides Walk on Oct. 19.

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