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Bob - Interview 03

Age at interview: 67
Age at diagnosis: 63
Brief Outline: Bob was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. He had surgery but did not need to have chemotherapy or radiotherapy because it was diagnosed early. He is also diabetic and had trouble with his wound after surgery.
Background: Bob is a retired polisher. He is married. He and his wife experienced the sadness of losing their son when he was in his late 30s. Ethnic background' White British (English).

More about me...

 Bob first felt a lump whilst showering, and he and his wife both noticed that his nipple was inverted. He went to see the doctor quickly after being encouraged to do so by his wife. 

He had a mastectomy, and had one lymph node removed. He was shown how to do exercises to strengthen the muscles in his arm. He has not had any problems with it since. He didn’t need to have chemotherapy or radiotherapy but took tamoxifen for five years. 
Bob also has diabetes. After his operation he had trouble with his wound. His stitches were taken out too early and the wound re-opened. He had to be rushed to another room to have the wound re-clipped. He usually keeps a t-shirt or a shirt on if he is doing things so that he can keep his scar covered up because, although it has healed, he doesn’t feel it is very nice to look at.
Bob remembers his mother having breast cancer. He thought at the time that she was always at the doctors, but now he feels that it is important to check things out with his doctor if he is worried about anything. He stresses the importance of consulting the doctor with any symptoms without delay and is keen to make sure that other men realise this because men often take their bodies for granted. 
He didn’t know that men could get breast cancer before he was diagnosed, and he feels that there is still a stigma associated with men having breast cancer. He was very shocked when he got his diagnosis, especially because he had been fit, and later he felt angry like he had done after his son had died. He didn’t really like telling people about his illness. His wife mostly told family and friends for him; they found that a lot of people didn’t know that men could get breast cancer. He wanted to be interviewed because he thinks it is really important for people to be better informed. 
Bob and his wife were given very little information about his illness and what would happen. They found it hard to find any information and he didn’t know other people to ask. They both think that breast cancer in men needs to be more widely talked about. He got a lot of support from his wife but got less support from elsewhere, including the hospital. 
 
 

After an initial bit of queasiness, Bob had no side effects from tamoxifen. His wife helped him...

After an initial bit of queasiness, Bob had no side effects from tamoxifen. His wife helped him...

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How did you find the tamoxifen?

 
Alright. At first it was… I were taking tablets for my diabetic and I was taking that, and I felt a bit… queasy. Then when I got it into me system… excuse me. Alright.
 
Did you have any other side effects with the tamoxifen?
 
No.
 
None at all?
 
No, no.
 
You didn’t feel your body shape change in any way or… hair loss or…?
 
No, no. No. I had to make sure I took them tablets every day.
 
Was that difficult?
 
Eh…It’s like owt else. I was taking them, and sometimes you do forget. But I made sure I took ‘em every day if I could.
 
And did [your wife] help you?
 
Oh, yeah. She’s my carer, you see. She makes sure I’ve got all the tablets I should take.
 
 

Bob relied on his wife to give him information. When he was first diagnosed he didn’t know which...

Bob relied on his wife to give him information. When he was first diagnosed he didn’t know which...

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 Did you really rely on [wife] to give you information?

 
Yeah.
 
Do you think she searched for more information than you did?
 
Oh, she did, she did.
 
Was it because you didn’t want the information or… why did she do it? Just keep it… did you not want to know too much?
 
No.
 
Why was that?
 
Well… in the… well, when me mother had it, I… I found it … I don’t know what it were. Just… I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it.
 
You just do not know which way to turn because like I say, there’s not a lot of information. Only small booklets. If they brought summat out… to let you know, like I say, you’ve got to go to the doctor if you’ve got owt like that, cos it’s no joke. 
 
What sort of questions did you have? Can you remember?
 
Well, why, why, why? Why has it happened to me? Because I… I look after meself. Well, my wife helps me, but I look after meself as much as I possibly can. Me body. But I were really, really mad because I used to look after meself as much as I possibly could, but it were really… let’s put it this way. It were like destroying, you know, I were really destroyed with it because I’d never seen it before and never knew it happened to me, personally. But… it happened and that were it, and I had to really get… scrape meself together and get things going.
 
 

Bob thought it would be better for him if not too many people knew, and a lot of his friends didn...

Bob thought it would be better for him if not too many people knew, and a lot of his friends didn...

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So who was it that you told about the breast cancer?

 
Well, my wife did it, mostly.
 
And were you happy for her to do that?
 
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, let’s put it this way – yes and no. Yes and no. Because I thought it were a stigma, you know? As long as the… more people didn’t know much about it, it would be better for me. I mean, I were going backwards and forwards to hospital.
 
Why did you think it would be better for you?
 
Because I thought I like to keep things to meself, but I have to tell them why, because the point is she looks after me.
 
How did it make you feel as a man having breast cancer?
 
Well, like I say, I don’t like taking my shirt off in summer cos people look at you. It don’t matter what you got, people really look at you but you’re not bothered. I’m not bothered, it’s just embarrassment. And now I’ve got it, so what can I do about it? Just…
 
Is the embarrassment the worst thing about it?
 
Oh yeah. 
 
 

Bob thinks his scar is not very nice to look at. It needed to be restitched after the first set...

Bob thinks his scar is not very nice to look at. It needed to be restitched after the first set...

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How does it feel, having had the mastectomy? I mean, you said that you didn’t like to take your top off. How do you feel as a man, having had that?

 
Well, I feel… well, it’s like owt else. If it’s a warm day or we’ve been somewhere, I like to keep me shirt on, because I don’t like anybody to look. I mean, it’s like owt else. They’re like that, you know? “What’s up, what’s up, what’s up, what’s up wi’ ye?” And I just don’t like it. I don’t know, it’s… I think it’s a stigma sometimes. I… just don’t like it at all.
 
When you take your top off, the rare times you do, do people ask you or do you just see them looking?
 
I see them looking, cos when I were younger, 19, you know when you’re 19, sssh, when I were in quarry it were shorts and nothing. Now I can’t do that.
 
And do you miss taking off your top?
 
Oh, sometimes, yeah, yeah, yeah. I try to keep a t-shirt or a shirt on. If I’m doing anything, I like to keep covered up.
 
And what about with your wife? Do you feel that you still need to be covered up with her?
 
No, not really. No, she understands. She understands what’s… she’ll say sometimes “are you alright with it? It don’t hurt, nowt’s wrong with it, is it?” I’ll say “no, everything’s alright, you know? Everything’s quite alright”. No, no, no, because the point is, she knows what I’ve gone through. She knows exactly. Every doctor’s been and they’ve done what they could. 
 
I’m gonna get no help from anywhere else. It’s healed up and… I know it’s not very nice to look at, cos they’ve, like I say, the operation didn’t sew up… and with being diabetic, it just bursts. I think it were the doctor’s fault for taking the stitches too early out. 
 
And I had to get it all stitched up, they had to whip me out and get it all stitched up again. 
 
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