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Dan - Interview 01

Age at interview: 52
Age at diagnosis: 50
Brief Outline: Dan was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. He had a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, Herceptin and tamoxifen. He did not want chemotherapy but was told he had to have chemotherapy to be eligible for Herceptin.
Background: Dan is a lecturer, he is married and has one teenage child. Ethnic background' Hindu.

More about me...

 Dan noticed a swelling in his breast that was getting worse. He thought this was a result of the workouts he had been doing at the gym. Despite changing his workout the swelling continued to worsen. Eventually after persuasion from his wife and other family members he decided he would see his GP. 

 
He was unaware that men could develop breast cancer and his diagnosis came as a complete shock. When he was having his mammogram and biopsy the doctor indicated he thought it was cancer. When he returned the next week for his results he was more prepared for his diagnosis and felt in safe hands with his medical team. He went on to work and immediately started planning his rota to accommodate his treatment. He also told his colleagues and students. They were all shocked and offered him their support.
 
Following his mastectomy his wound had to be drained of fluid every 2-3 days for the first two weeks. He had lymphodema in his arm and he still has to do exercises to ease the swelling. He found chemotherapy very difficult. He had felt pressured into taking the chemotherapy but felt in retrospect it was for the best. He experienced blurred vision, altered taste, leg pains and fatigue. He feels that the tamoxifen has made him more moody. 
 
When he was at his clinic appointments, his wife was often mistakenly assumed by staff to be the patient and he was upset when they called “Mrs” instead of “Mr”. He was supported by women he met during treatment. However he felt he had to put on a brave face on at the hospital where he became known as the “smiling man” because he never complained or became upset.
 
His wife was his main support. He was given information by the hospital but he did not read it, his wife did. He didn’t want to be reminded that he had cancer. He was concerned for his family’s future and wanted to make sure he was able to be there for his son whilst he was growing up and to provide for the family’s financial security.
 
 

Dan suspected something might be wrong when he was waiting in the hospital. The doctor was...

Dan suspected something might be wrong when he was waiting in the hospital. The doctor was...

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 When we went to the hospital, where I was sitting, there are all patients, breast cancer patients – then I was thinking, “I think I’ve got something wrong here,” yes.

 
Why did you think that then?
 
I don’t know – the atmosphere and the place, and when I went in, the doctor that was looking after me, he was taking his time – so I did suspect that there is something cooking inside.
 
And how did you feel about that?
 
I took it lightly REPEATS. The next day, the next time, when I went there, it was confirmed and I was smiling. I was smiling – the doctor asked me, “What’s the problem with you?” I said, “Well, because I’m in safe hands – I’m ok.” So, but I kept on smiling, right? Only my wife, she cried – I don’t know why she cried but then I slowly, gradually, some time, I realised what’s going on and then I had, I went through the same, how we call it, same feeling as other people do feel about cancer and I never knew that it will be, one day it will be me.
 
Getting cancer?
 
Yes.
 
Why did you think that?
 
Usually you don’t get something on you – these type of things, you always hear or read somebody is getting that. So one day, when it is on me, then I realise nobody is immune, yes.
 
So when you were sitting with the consultant and he said, “I’m sorry, it’s breast cancer,” how did that make you feel?
 
I was surprised, a bit. I was surprised a bit, but I knew that it was coming since the last week – something is going on. So I expected that when it was confirmed. So that was it, and I can’t cry, I can’t weep, this is part of life now, it is true, and I have to face it – so I said I was brave, yes.
 
Have you ever cried? Have you ever gone and cried in private?
 
Yes. Not after that, but one day I was having one of my relatives were talking about, and I cried with him. Just in front of him and nobody else. And during chemos, yes, I cried secretly, yes.
 

Dan describes his side effects, which included tiredness, loss of taste, leg pain, loss of...

Dan describes his side effects, which included tiredness, loss of taste, leg pain, loss of...

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 What was the experience of having chemotherapy like?

 
Oh experience. It’s difficult to explain the experience, but anyway, it is terrible. It is traumatic, but it is worthwhile. Just for a few days, and I can see now, I can imagine, now, those feelings, like it was something which is normal, the benefit that it brings afterward, we’ll have to look forward.
 
Ok – did you think that at the time?
 
No.
 
No.
 
No.
 
What did you think at the time?
 
I was just thinking I shouldn’t have chemo, yes.
 
Did you feel that you were sort of persuaded into it? Because you said that you might not have got the Herceptin?
 
Yes.
 
Did you feel pressured?
 
A little pressured, but I think they did the best thing for me. Yes. I think they made me decide. They made me decide the right decision, yes. If that was not the case, I might not have taken the chemo – so I might not be able to speak whatever I’m speaking now.
 
So what happened on a day that you were going for chemotherapy? Did you have to go to the hospital early? Or
 
I go to hospital on time. I usually go to hospital on time – that was in [hospital] in central [name of place]. and the staff were very good, doctors were very good as well, and everybody knew me. Every time I go there, they say, “well the smiling man is coming”. So they are very good. They are very good right. I went there for two years. The same ward, same people looked after me.
 
Two years for chemotherapy, or was that because you had the Herceptin after?
 
Herceptin as well, yes, same place.
 
What side effects did you have with the chemotherapy?
 
Oh, side effects, I had blurred visions on the very first day. I got tired, I got, you name it. Tongue, taste. My tongue is still tingling- my taste is gone. And I had pain, I got leg pain. You can’t eat. Even sleep, you want to sleep because of the energy was not there – so there’s a lot of side effects, which is difficult to explain. But I went through all of these side effects. However, it didn’t last long. You see, the side effect, especially the biggest effect is on the third and the fourth day. First and second day is not a problem – yes, but even that, I was still driving on my own.
 
Who took you to have chemotherapy?
 
I was going on my own. Yeah, sometimes my wife was coming, sometimes I was going on my own.
 
Ok – and did you lose your hair?
 
Yes, I did – I lose my hair on the very first day.
 
Wow.
 
On the very first day, when I went home, had a shower, and all the hair gone.
 
Right.
 
Yeah.
 
Was that your hair here and your eyebrows and eyelashes?
 
Yes – everywhere.
 
Everywhere.
 
Yes yes.
 
And how did that make you feel?
 
Before going for chemo, I nearly shaved my head but it was not shaved, it was a number one cut, haircut –
 

Dan can ‘live with’ the side effects of tamoxifen to get the benefit.

Dan can ‘live with’ the side effects of tamoxifen to get the benefit.

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 And how do you find the tamoxifen?

 
Oh, tamoxifen – I find myself a bit moody. My problem was my eyes and my problem with my bones with tamoxifen, because it is only when I really, the pain really – it started coming back when I started tamoxifen back again and I was going to gym and do all fine, but soon I started tamoxifen – all the pains came back again.
 
And do you take it regularly?
 
Yes I do, every day – twenty milligrams, every day for the last one and a half ?
 
So even although you have all these side effects, you’re still going to keep taking it?
 
Yes. Yes. Yes. To get the benefit, yeah. The side effects is not, you can live with that.
 
Ok, and you said you took, is it calci-chew that you take now for your bones?
 
Yeah, for the bones, my tablet, and my doctor said you need some sun – I said, “well, I’m going holidays.”
 
So it’s a good excuse to go back home?
 
Yes, that was, yes.
 
Ok. Very good. Are there any other side effects with the tamoxifen that you…
 
No, not that much. No not that much. Usually side effects, and everybody got that side effect, not unusual one, yes.
 
So obviously the tamoxifen is a, it stops the hormones, it’s the hormone treatment – has that affected your relationship at all with your wife?
 
No, that’s fine.
 

Dan had been referred to as ‘Mrs’ rather than ‘Mr’ when he was being called by staff who didn’t...

Dan had been referred to as ‘Mrs’ rather than ‘Mr’ when he was being called by staff who didn’t...

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 I’ve got one other problem at hospital. They keep calling me Mrs – when they call Mrs [surname] I say, “Not Mrs, Mr [surname],” you see? Everybody, they think that it will be a she. I said, “No, it’s a he.”

 
Right, because it’s [name] that you’re known as.
 
Yes, [name] correct. Yes – they always say Mrs. Not always, but very, very often. Very, very, yeah – and it’s a [inaudible] itself, they’re all about Mrs. Yeah, all about the ladies, so I can’t blame them.
 
We were talking about how the breast cancer campaign’s very pink and feminine, and I was just wondering what your views were on that?
 
Yeah – it is not feminine, it is not feminine, and the treatment, the pink ribbon – so everybody differs breast cancer as… female something, but I can’t complain because there are too many females getting that. However, sometimes, it makes me bother about what’s going on, because people, they keep ignoring men. Yeah. Even hospitals, when you go there, they call you Mrs.
 
That’s just really rude, though.
 
Yeah. No, they don’t know me – if they don’t know me, they will call the name Mrs – they will call the name Mrs, so and when I… sometimes when I was going to hospital all the time, my wife was going, so my wife would be staying outside sometimes, so they said, “Why are you not in?” Then my wife says, “It’s not me – it’s my husband.”
 

Dan didn’t want to read all the information he was given about breast cancer. He asked his wife...

Dan didn’t want to read all the information he was given about breast cancer. He asked his wife...

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Did they give you information to read while you were in hospital?
 
They gave me information to read while I was in hospital, but in hospital, you see, you don’t read all this information. It is only when you go home, then. I put it back – I put it on the table. My wife, she was the one that read for me.
 
Right.
 
Was reading for me and telling me this, this, this – and I don’t want to see all these booklets, all these books, you see? I don’t want to go on that feeling again that I got cancer.
 
Ok. So you didn’t, your wife read up a lot?
 
Yes
 
And you just, she gave you the information as you wanted it?
 
Yes. I can read, but I don’t like to.
 
You don’t like to read about cancer?
 
No.
 
Just in general?
 
Just in general, because I don’t want to feel bad, the same way, you see?
 
So the information that they gave you at the time, when you were in with the consultant and he told you you had breast cancer, you said that, did you get information then? You were given leaflets?
 
Leaflets, yeah, they gave leaflets, yes.
 
But you didn’t want to read them?
 
No, because I knew I have cancer now, so I said my wife to read it for me and tell me what’s going on, yeah.
 
Ok – so do you feel you got enough information from the hospital?
 
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
 
Does your wife think that she got enough information?
 
Yes. Yes. Yes.
 
Was it just leaflets that you were given or…?
 
No, leaflets as well as the call to the breast cancer nurse – yeah, she spoke to us in the office. Yes.
 
Ok – did you see her with the consultant?
 

With the consultant, but when the consultant was, he went to see other people, then we were with, nearly one hour with the breast cancer nurse. She briefed us on what’s going on and what will happen and how it will work from now – how the treatment will go. 

 

Dan would have liked to have gone to a support group but the opportunity to go to one was not...

Dan would have liked to have gone to a support group but the opportunity to go to one was not...

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 Would you ever go to a support group with women?

 
Yes, why not? Yes, yes.
 
And was there not a group that you could have gone to?
 
I’ve never been to a group.
 
You haven’t? There wasn’t one in the hospital for breast cancer?
 
I don’t know.
 
No-one suggested it?
 
No, nobody.
 
Would you have liked to have gone?
 
Yes.
 
Why do you think no-one said?
 
I don’t know. Maybe they were only women there, so this might think, well might not mix with a woman – but nobody suggested to me.
 
But you would have been quite happy going?
 
Yes.
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