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Bernard - Interview 20

Age at interview: 59
Age at diagnosis: 56
Brief Outline: Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. His diagnosis came as a surprise as the lump had been present for many years and he had been told it was nothing to worry about. He had a mastectomy, radiotherapy and tamoxifen.
Background: Bernard is a day care officer. He is married and has 3 adult children. Ethnic background' White British (Scottish).

More about me...

 Bernard had a lump next to his nipple from a young age. He had previously mentioned it to his GP who told him it was nothing to worry about. A few years before diagnosis the lump had become very itchy and had bled a couple of times. He decided to mention it to his GP again when he was seeing him for another issue. He was advised again it was probably nothing, but if it was worrying he could be referred to have it removed. At hospital he was reassured that it was probably nothing to worry about. However, he was telephoned soon after his biopsy and asked to return to the hospital the following week. He knew then that it was serious.

 
His family was devastated by his diagnosis, but they were relieved that treatment began quickly. He had a lot of confidence in his surgeon and oncologist. He also met a breast care nurse who offered him support, but he felt well supported by his family and never felt he needed her.
 
He told everyone his diagnosis and was touched by the support he received from his community. He had a strong Christian faith and felt supported by his faith and fellow churchgoers who were all praying for him and giving him encouragement. He doesn’t take his top off whilst away on holiday and he wears a t-shirt in the hydro pool at work because he doesn’t want other people to feel embarrassed. At times he has had to show his scar to prove to some people that he has had breast cancer when they do not believe him. 
 
He still has occasional stiffness in his arm. He has changed his lifestyle to be more healthy. He does get down at times, but he takes each day as it comes and is not fearful about cancer or death, knowing that his faith will carry him through life. 
 
 

Bernard had a lump for many years but saw a doctor when it started to itch. He was reassured that...

Bernard had a lump for many years but saw a doctor when it started to itch. He was reassured that...

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 Well I- I had this lump next to my nipple for, x amount of years, right? And it didn’t bother me. Then, say about four year before I had the operation maybe five year before I had the operation, it began to get itchy. It was only a wee tiny, it was like a second nipple actually, maybe no even as big as my nipple you know. And eh, I went to my doctor’s and my doctor says to me, “It’s nothing to worry about Mr [name]”, I’ve got on well with my doctor by the way I do, Dr [name of GP], he’s a very nice chap. And, I said, “Well that’s fine”, he said “if you want to go in” he says, “you can go in to get it cut out” he says “and that’ll be it”. I says, “No”, I says “I can live with this”, I says “I’ll be fine”, you know. So, we used to go down to the caravan, down in- down the [name of area ] coast, we used to go down there. One day I was having a shower in the caravan and it bled, you know. So I just, I says, “Ach well it’ll be okay”. But it started to get very itchy. This is the only way I can explain it to you my dear, you know. And, I went back to the doctor’s - this was, say about four year before it- after it started getting itchy you know. And I went back to this doctor and it was a wee locum doctor that was there, hell of a nice wee chap. And, I’d says to him, I actually went down, I had- where I work, I’m a DCO, a Day Care Officer, with profound children and that you know.

 
And, there was a chiropodist in and they were getting, some of the kids or some of the adults rather, they were getting their toenails clipped, and I’d says to them, “Look” I says, “you couldn’t do mine could you?” And she went, “Look [name] I’m telling ye”, she says, “you go and get your toe nails off, you’ve got ingrown toenails”. And I’ve had them for years you know. But she clipped it anyway, but in the course of her clipping it and this, about a fortnight after it, it began to poison, she hadn’t took the nail right away, so this is how I went to my doctor, and he’d says to me, “I’ll give you antibiotics for that, but you’ll need to get your toenail off eventually”. Which I eventually did, I went and got it done. But while I was there I’d says to him, I’d says, “By the way doctor” I says, I didn’t even know the doctor’s name, I says to him I says, I says, “I’ve got a wee concern”. He says, “What is it?” I says, “It’s my chest I says, I’ve thingmy there”, and he looked at it and he says, “Oh I’ll send you for a biopsy” he says “and that’ll put your mind at ease”. I says, “That’s fine”. So I went for the biopsy, on the, following Tuesday or something like that. Or a couple of weeks after, I think it was the Tuesday I went anyway. So I went up and I seen this doctor, doctor- female, very nice lady. And she says to me, “There’s ninety nine point ninety nine percent sure there’s nothing for you to worry about”. So that was me away home with a skip in my thingmy, you know skipping no problem. And I’d says to [name of wife], I says, “She says it’s nothing to worry about darling”. She said, “Did you get it done?” I says, “Aye”. I says, “They gave me the jag” I says “and they’ve took it anyway”. So I came in from my work the Friday and I got the phone call. I’m telling a lie, I was still off my work with the, with the ingrown toenail. And I got the phone call on the Friday and, it was this doctor that had says to me, “Could you come up to the hospital?” And I went, “When would you like me up?” “As soon as, could you come up on Tuesday”. So I just turned round and I says to [name of wife], I says “I’ve got cancer”. Do you know what I mean? And I- just to say- and she went “[name] don’t be so stupid”. I says, “look, I says I’m telling you”, you know I said, “there’s something wrong”. I says “they want me up right away, and they’ve done that you know, for nothing”.
 

Bernard did not feel that there were many choices to be made about his treatment, but he was...

Bernard did not feel that there were many choices to be made about his treatment, but he was...

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 Well did they say to you, you know, you could have a mastectomy or you have to have a mastectomy or- did they discuss chemo or radio, did they, did they include you in the discussions or did they say you have to have- X Y and Z?

 
No I think they said I had to have a mastectomy. I had to have that, aye. I don’t think there was another option.
 
Right. And what about the radiotherapy? Was that an optional thing?
 
Well, they says to me at first, that it’d likely be tablets I’d be on. I don’t know what kind of tablet it was they were going to give me, maybe tamoxifen, I don’t know. But, when Doctor [name of doctor] or something, he said that he wanted- I’m sure it was him that said he wanted to give me twenty days. Just as a precaution. So.
 
And how did you feel about that?
 
I was fine with it. You know. Anything that’s helping me, I’m fine with you know.
 
So you didn’t mind that they weren’t giving you sort of choices as such?
 
No, I was fine with it you know. I canny explain it any better darling, you know.
 

Bernard’s wife and daughter were more interested in finding information about breast cancer than...

Bernard’s wife and daughter were more interested in finding information about breast cancer than...

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Would you have liked something specifically for men?

 
I didn’t really- I don’t know how to put this to you, just me going in and getting it done that was enough for me. Do you know what I mean?
 
Right. Yes. You felt you were in good hands, and you didn’t feel like you needed-
 
Aye.
 
- like you didn’t feel as though you needed any more information? Or you were quite happy with what you’d got?
 
Aye. Mhmm.
 
So you didn’t go-
 
Satisfied with what I got aye.
 
Right. So you didn’t go searching the internet or-?
 
No I just-
 
Did your daughter do that?
 
[Name of daughter] done it yeah. She was on- she knew right away, she could tell you things and that you know.
 
Right. And did you ask (overtalking) - did you ask her for information?
 
She would just tell us without me asking, you know. “Dad this” and “dad that”, you know.
 
And was she- were you quite happy to hear her what she was telling you?
 
Aye, mhmm.
 
So you were interested in what you were hearing?
 
Well aye I was interested yeah, aye. I can’t really explain it to you. You know. Know, eh, no honest to God, I can’t- I don’t know how- [name of daughter] talked to me and that- it’s that long ago you know. It’s- aye I would, was interested to listen to her aye.
 
I think [name of wife] was more interested in it than me, actually. I think she was more interested in it than me.
 
Did you just want to get on with it?
 
Correct and get it done and over and that was it. You know.
 

Bernard might have gone to a group if it had been offered but he wouldn’t have ‘pushed’ his way...

Bernard might have gone to a group if it had been offered but he wouldn’t have ‘pushed’ his way...

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 So it sounds as though the sort of support you were getting, from all these different places, you didn’t feel that you had to go to a support group with other people that have experienced breast cancer?

 
No.
 
No?
 
If somebody had says to me come up and went like that, “Look there’s a thingmy for breast cancer, people that’s had breast cancer, it’s on a Tuesday night, would you like to go along?” I’d a went along then, if I’d a been invited but I wouldn’t a pushed my way into it, you know what I mean? Or if, or if there’d been an advert in the paper saying ‘come along’, I might a done it. But I wouldn’t have, I wouldn’t have phoned up places to see if there was a meeting somewhere, I wouldn’t have done that you know?
 
Why not?
 
Well, I can’t answer that, I just wouldn’t have done it. You know.
 
Is it because maybe it would have been women or-?
 
Oh no, not at all, no, no. Just- I don’t think me being there would have made it any more important or whatever, you know or just made any difference you know.
 
To you?
 
Or to anybody else that was there maybe you know.
 

Bernard didn’t like to take his top off. He didn’t want to cause any embarrassment or make people...

Bernard didn’t like to take his top off. He didn’t want to cause any embarrassment or make people...

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How, how do you feel having your mastectomy? You’ve got a bit of your chest away.

 
Well, the likes of on holiday and that, I’ll no take my top off or that. Right. And I don’t know if it’s embarrassment or no, but in the work, we’ve got a hydro pool. And when I say it’s a hydra pool it holds fifteen thousand gallons of water so it’s like a swimming pool. It’s a big hydro pool. And we take our customers, or service users, whatever you want to call them, I take some of them in you know. And it’s just recently I started wearing a top. I used to go in without, you know just show the scar and that, you know. Even if there was-. But there’s strangers in now, it’s- I’m no wanting them to feel embarrassed. It’s no me, I don’t feel embarrassed about it now you know. But I don’t want them to be going, ‘oh that poor guy what’s wrong with him’ or something like that you know. But it’s fine you know, I’m fine with it. But on holiday, even before I had that I never took ma top off anyway, because I burn too easily. You know. So I’m telling lies there, I don’t- I never ever took my top off anyway.
 
Okay.
 
Before I had this you know.
 
But you are aware of the scar being there, it’s not like-
 
Aye because it’s always itchy, I’m always scratching it.
 
Does it look any different because of the radiotherapy? You know, it can sometimes sort of tan the skin. Does it?
 
No.
 

Bernard was willing to talk to anyone who wanted to talk to him about his breast cancer. He found...

Bernard was willing to talk to anyone who wanted to talk to him about his breast cancer. He found...

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 And what about telling other people, outwith the family? Do you tell people?

 
Eh… Ach if I’m sitting at work and that and there’s maybe agencies in and they’ll talk about it, I’ve seen people talking about oh, such and such, they’ve got breast cancer, and I’ll go like that, “well I know how they’re feeling now, because I had it”, and they don’t believe me you know. I say “well I can assure you I did, I wouldn't lie about anything like that” you know. But, I wouldn't go about girning [complaining] about it or anything like that you know, just maybe- if anybody wanted to talk to me about it, I would talk to them you know.
 
So you’ve been quite open about your diagnosis then?
 
Aye.
 
I mean people knew sort of in the area that you had breast cancer at the time, and you were getting treatment for it?
 
Oh aye, aye. They all knew, everybody round about. Well it’s like- just- you win a hunner pound the day and when you get to the end of the street it’s ten thousand pound, do you know what I mean? Know what I mean?
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