Men get breast cancer too – and we get Tamoxifen!

Ladies! You no longer have exclusivity to this club!  Men get breast cancer too – and we get Tamoxifen!

In 1952 my sister, then aged 14 had radiation therapy for a lump in her right breast and is a survivor. My mother had a right mastectomy at the age of 83 and survived until she was 95 and my brother survives oesophical cancer. My female cousins on my mother’s side have all had breast cancer. It appears there is a gene that runs thru the family????

I had an inverted right nipple for years. In October 2008 I noticed a discoloration and what felt like a small marble behind it. I called my wife Irene just as my daughter, a homeopath, walked through the door. She chased me off for a thorough check up.

I went to the ‘Bone and Breast Clinic’. That was an experience! I needed a Mammogram! Imagine what it was like to squeeze my breasts into what looked like the jaws of a Duck-billed platypus! I’m still not sure if they got results but we did entertain the other patients!

Then came the biopsy – yeah – ouch! I was diagnosed with breast cancer: four sessions of chemo, a full mastectomy, four more doses of chemo then 30 sessions of Radiotherapy.

The first chemo sessions were an emotional roller-coaster ride. Red Devil! I don’t recommend it! I was fine for three days but then my world collapsed. It took three days to get back on track and then I was back to work until the next dose – subject to blood counts.

I learnt not to believe everything I heard. What applies to others does not necessarily apply to you! You must be positive and just push on. In retrospect: I think I got off pretty lightly.

The operation went off like clockwork, so did my breast! When the surgeon did his rounds I was sitting up in bed tucking into some good old hospital food! The next morning he found me washed, shaved and sitting up in bed reading.

He asked if I would be able to manage the drain, put me through some arm-waving exercises and sent me home. I was a bit peeved because I’d just ordered curry for lunch!

I had a little post-op discomfort but I kept that pretty much to myself. There was the odd time when the grandchildren whacked me in the chest… That really make your eyes water!

The second round of chemo went a little easier, possibly due to the change in the medication. The nurses and staff in oncology centres are very special people.

Radiotherapy… I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I went for the mapping, to establish the parameters, I was tattooed in three places! I wanted bunny rabbits but ended up with blobs of ink. The blobs act as a datum for setting up the machine on each visit. At the first session I expected to see smoke and smell burnt chicken; but nothing like that happened. After 15 – 20 sessions a burn began to manifest, a patch of sunburned, flakey skin. I applied Maizena – it works a treat and it’s cheap!

My wife says I’ve been a grumpy old sod during the treatment. I thought I’d been my usual charming self! You can’t prevent the mood swings – but you can take advantage of them!? I never dealt with the emotions – the fear, the shock and the fact that I may die. I just did everything I needed to ensure I survived.

My saviours have been my friends and family. I love them all – but I never realized just how much they loved me! It would be a very difficult journey to travel alone.

Written by John Kirtland

Photo courtesy of Moments In Time. For more information on the Moments In Time calendar please go to www.momentsintime.co.za

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