My battle with gynecomastia

Peter Zulu tells us how breast surgery at Helen Joseph Hospital Breast Care Clinic changed his life after suffering with gynecomastia (enlarged breast tissue in men) for three years.


Peter Zulu (29) lives in Soweto, Gauteng with his fiancé. 

Medication caused gynecomastia

Two and a half years ago Peter was put on medication for a longlife illness that he was diagnosed with. Unfortunately, a certain medication was the cause of gynecomastia. Within a few months of being on the prescribed medication, Peter suffered side effects. “My memory got very bad and my breasts started to get bigger. At first, I thought it was weight-related, that I was getting too fat but my body stayed the same, only my breasts grew,” Peter explains.

Stressed and embarrassed 

Peter’s gynecomastia caused him much stress and embarrassment. “When I was in public spaces, people would notice my large breasts and would ask me what was happening, especially my friends. I stopped swimming as I was too embarrassed to take my shirt off,” he explains.

Peter became depressed and was constantly agonising about his enlarged breasts. Every night he would be on the internet, trying to figure out what was happening to him. It was here where he found out that he had gynecomastia and the causes could be hormonal changes or side effects from certain medications. He did research on surgery. But when he saw the cost ranging from R80 000 to R120 000, he reluctantly accepted that this would be a permanent problem that he would deal with for the rest of his life.

So, Peter found the next best solution…he started wearing his fiancé’s compression weight-loss belt over his breasts, and always wore loose T-shirts and baggy tops over the T-shirts. “It was extremely uncomfortable and hot and my breasts would still show,” he says. This was Peter’s life for over a year. 

Another problem was Peter’s self-confidence within his relationship. “It wasn’t hard to be intimate but it was always at the back of my mind that my partner would see me as less of a man,” he adds. But Peter’s fiancé assured him she would support him every step of the way and that they had been through thick and thin so they would get through this.

Seizures at work

The stress and anxiety of trying to hide his body changes took a toll on Peter, he had lost a lot of weight, and started having seizures. When Peter had a seizure at work in 2017, his employer was extremely concerned and sent him to a clinic at Helen Joseph Hospital. Numerous tests were done and he was told it would be a lengthy process to find out what the cause was, not only of the seizures but also the gynecomastia.

Within a month, the cause of the gynecomastia was identified as a certain medication he was on. As was the seizures.

In July 2018, his medication was changed and Peter was referred to Helen Joseph Hospital Breast Care Clinic. “I didn’t even know what a breast clinic was and what was done there. It was last year November that I started coming to the breast clinic. In my mind, because it was a government hospital, I thought I would only have the surgery in a few years’ time,” Peter says.

But that was not the case. After two consultations and numerous tests (which included a mammogram and an ultrasound to ensure there was no breast cancer), Peter was told to come back in December for his surgery date. When he went in December, he was advised that because they were closed over the holidays, it would be best for the surgery to be done in January. 

On the day he went to get his surgery date in January, he was told that they have a slot open for him on that very day. He nervously laughed and told them he isn’t ready, he needs to prepare and pray. The surgery was then set for the next week.

Poolside dream

Peter was ecstatic that his surgery was set; his embarrassment was literally and physically going to be removed from his body. The surgery was a success with the excess breast tissue removed and both nipples still intact. He had drains for a week and had his drains removed on the day of the interview.

“I’m so relieved now as I can actually wear normal-sized T-shirts and walk around. I even told my fiancé that if we knew the surgery was going to be in January, we could have planned a weekend away for my birthday (30 January) so we could celebrate by a pool, where I could proudly and unashamedly swim.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Photos by Chantal Drummond Photography | info@chantaldphoto.co.za  |  www.chantaldphoto.co.za

Laurelle Williams is the editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. editor@buddiesforlife.co.za

MEET OUR EDITOR – Laurelle Williams

Laurelle Williams is the editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. editor@buddiesforlife.co.za


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