A-Z

Derek B - Interview 24

Age at interview: 69
Age at diagnosis: 68
Brief Outline: After his diagnosis of breast cancer he had to wait three months to have his mastectomy because of breathing problems. He then had radiotherapy over a six week period. He then had tamoxifen which caused him to gain weight.
Background: Derek is a part-time receptionist. He is divorced and has 2 adult children. Ethnic background' White British (English).

More about me...

 While Derek was seeing his doctor about a breathing problem, he mentioned that he had been having an intermittent itching around his nipple over the previous month or so. The GP immediately commented that men can get breast cancer, which Derek hadn’t realised before. Within two weeks of seeing the GP, he had had a biopsy which confirmed that he had breast cancer. Unfortunately, he then had to wait for 3 months before he could have his mastectomy because his breathing problems prevented him from having an anaesthetic. Derek had had an embolism in his lung about 15 months earlier and continues to be on Warfarin. 

Derek lives on his own, so after the operation he stayed with his son and daughter-in-law to recuperate. They were very supportive. His operation wound took some time to heal. He still feels a little self-conscious about his scar and he was quite surprised by it when he first saw the wound after the operation. 
He had radiotherapy once a week over a 6 week period after his mastectomy, and then started on tamoxifen which made him put on weight but otherwise had no adverse side effects.
He has not felt the need to be at all secretive about having breast cancer and has had good support from his family and friends and the breast care nurses, although he doesn’t like to bother them for too much help. Most people have been surprised to hear that he has had breast cancer, but most of them have been interested and curious to hear about his experiences. He would like to have been able to find out from other men with breast cancer whether they had felt the same about things as he had. He has talked to a (female) neighbour about her experience of having breast cancer. In general he thinks it is easier to talk to women because men may be more embarrassed unless they have had breast cancer themselves. 
Up until his embolism he had been very healthy. He tries not to worry about things that he can’t do anything about, and generally keeps a positive attitude to life.
 
 

Derek mentioned the itchiness that had developed in his nipple whilst seeing his doctor for...

Derek mentioned the itchiness that had developed in his nipple whilst seeing his doctor for...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Well yeah I mean it was, it was so unusual in actual fact I mean I didn’t even have an inkling of anything and I was going to the doctors, ‘cos I’ve got a breathing problem, and I’d gone to him for that, and whilst we were there I said to him, “This is a bit embarrassing but...” I said, “my nipple itches”. So, and I said, “It doesn’t seem natural”. So, I mean he immediately said, “Well you realise men can get breast cancer?” So I said, “Well, yes and no” sort of thing. So he said, “I think we ought to do a biopsy”. So within a fortnight he organised for me to go and have a biopsy and a week after that they called me and said, “Yes it was definitely positive”. So, then they wanted to organise the operation but unfortunately because of my breathing they wouldn’t allow me to take the anaesthetic, so I had to wait for three months.

 
You said that you’d mentioned the itchiness you’d had in the nipple when you went to see your GP about breathing problems, had, how long had you had that itchiness for…?
 
Actually not a tremendous length of time probably only a month or so, but you know what it is when you’ve some… you know if you go to the doctor and you’re talking about something else then you suddenly think ‘Oh I might as well ask him about this whilst I’m here’, and that was sort of basically how it really came up. I mean, I forget what it was that I actually went to him for, varicose veins or something or other like that, and, as I say, I was actually just coming away and I sort of said, “Well you know this”, and then he sort of had a look at it, and, I mean he couldn’t feel anything at all, but he said “well to be on the safe side we’ll take, you know, we’ll arrange to have a biopsy done”, which you know, I mean that was the progression with the thing then.
 
Sounds like he was very on the ball then?
 
Well yeah I like to think so, I mean you know, it, it is a nice practice and I mean, I’ve been going to him for quite a few years now, that, I think it’s nice when you actually do get to be sort of, well not necessarily friendly but, at least a bit more familiar with doctors, you know, I don’t, I mean there’s some doctors in the practice that I, you know I’ve never seen, but, I, so I generally if I’m going in for anything I always ask to see him you know. So, yeah he is quite good, although he’s not…, I don’t know, in his 50s I suppose… But eh, you know it’s not as though he’s a, a young one just… (laugh) but, he’s very with it, you know.
 

Derek did not feel any sense of fear when he got his diagnosis, although he did wonder what going...

Derek did not feel any sense of fear when he got his diagnosis, although he did wonder what going...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

And you never had any of that kind of sense of fear about your breast cancer at all?

 
No, none at all.
 
Not even, not even sort of thinking before the operation or…?
 
Well when, when they actually said to me that it was definitely cancer, it didn’t frighten me at all. As I say I just sort of thought, ‘well’, you know, ‘if it is, it is’. And, but that didn’t frighten me at all but, as I say the other experience did frighten me.
 
And so you didn’t feel any of that sense of fear when the doctor first said that you perhaps should go and have a biopsy just to, have a check about it?
 
No, no, I mean I was, I was probably more curious from the point of view that, you know, being naïve thinking that you know a man with cancer. But no, there was no, no fear in it at all. ‘Cos I thought well, just take life as it comes.
 
And you weren’t worried about the operation?
 
No, considering that I’d never been in hospital. I, I wouldn’t say that I was looking forward to it, but I, I did think, oh, well it’s an experience that I haven’t had before, and you know, I mean having the anaesthetic, because I’d never had an anaesthetic before. I don’t think I’d ever been unconscious before other than when I was very young I had a tooth out with gas. But I mean that was, that’s the only thing (laugh).
 

Derek wished that he had been warned that he might put weight on whilst taking tamoxifen so that...

Derek wished that he had been warned that he might put weight on whilst taking tamoxifen so that...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

I started the tamoxifen even before I had the radio [therapy], virtually I think, I think it was almost you know, as soon, soon after I came out of hospital and that really. ‘Cos I said to him recently when I, I saw him, what did I see him? ...about a couple of months ago, and I did say to him, I said about putting on the weight and that, so he said, “Oh well” he said “it is fault, or it’s a side track of tamoxifen that you put on weight”. So I said, “Well how long am I going to have to take this?” So he said, “Well, I think it will be five years”. So I said, “Well I hope I don’t go carrying on putting on weight at the same pace (laugh)…, ‘cos otherwise” I said, “I’ll be as big as a house”. But you know, I think it’s just a question of now being sensible and realising what’s happening and sort of trying to combat it with the diet side of it.

 
And have you had any other side effects from the tamoxifen?
 
No.
 
Otherwise it’s been completely straightforward?
 
Yeah, I mean that’s the only thing that I, you know, I have had, and I mean that’s not actually been apparent, it’s only just sort of, carried on, and, eventually I came to the conclusion, I sort of mentioned it to somebody and that that’s when they, that, I mean they hadn’t said before “oh you might be inclined to put on weight if you, you know, were taking it”, which I think is a little bit naughty. You know, if there is any side effects I think you should be told that there are.
 
Yeah, ‘cos then, you could have maybe changed your diet right from the beginning or something.
 
Well yeah that’s right. Yeah, I mean, had that been the case I probably would have tried to sort of combat one against the other, but, well that’s it, so I’ve just got to try now (laugh).
 

Derek had been to a breast cancer centre but tried not to go too often because he felt a bit self...

Derek had been to a breast cancer centre but tried not to go too often because he felt a bit self...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

So did you get any offer of support, you know going to a support group or anything like that?

 
Well yeah, I mean this is it, I mean I turned… I said about the Lodge, it’s attached to the hospital and I mean it is strictly you know for breast cancer, and, yeah I mean they, they sort of try and organise things, and you go, I mean ‘cos they organised it I went up and had a couple of massages and that after the operation. So, and they’re there again if you want to you can always go in and see them, but as I say, I, I try not to go too often because I sort of, I don’t know, I’m a bit self conscious about asking people, from the point of view that I think oh I’m being a nuisance, so rather than being a nuisance I don’t ask, and invariably it goes away, whatever it is (laugh).
 

Derek never thought, when he mentioned his itching nipple to his doctor whilst seeing him about...

Derek never thought, when he mentioned his itching nipple to his doctor whilst seeing him about...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

I mean it was, it was so unusual in actual fact I mean I didn’t even have an inkling of anything and I was going to the doctors, ‘cos I’ve got a breathing problem, and I’d gone to him for that, and whilst we were there I said to him, “This is a bit embarrassing but” I said, “my nipple itches”. So, and I said, “It doesn’t seem natural”. So, I mean he immediately said, “Well you realise men can get breast cancer?” So I said, “Well, yes and no” sort of thing.

 
What was, in general, what was people’s reaction? You said to me before we started the interview that, before you were diagnosed with breast cancer you hadn’t realised that men could get breast cancer?
 
Well I think the majority of people when I said it, were virtually of the same opinion as I was that they didn’t really realise that men had it, and of course when it was diagnosed and I got all the booklets and all the rest of it and I said, “Well”, I said “according to the booklet basically men getting cancer is something like 1% of, on an average, what is it 40,000 women, and 400 men”. So I said you know, “It’s not the sort of thing that the majority of people do know anything about”, it’s only if you actually encounter it. I mean now obviously people, my sort of friends and workmates and everything else I mean they’re obviously aware of it because of it having happened to me, and I think possibly you know, it works on that sort of basis, that, it’s if somebody gets it then it’s immediate family and sort of friends and that, that would get to know and it’s obviously spreading out like that you know. Because I mean, as I say, I mean nobody ever, ever said to me about, you know, a man could get cancer. And I mean, I didn’t even ask the doctor about it in the first context because I thought that it could be that, you know, because I, I hadn’t even given it a thought, that I mean, it wasn’t, well it was obviously a surprise, but I wouldn’t say that it was a shock, because I like to think that I accept life as it comes, so that it, you know it’s just one of those things. And, well I was getting on a little bit so it didn’t worry me that much (laugh).
 

Derek doesn’t feel strongly about what breast cancer in men should be called. He has never felt...

Derek doesn’t feel strongly about what breast cancer in men should be called. He has never felt...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Some of the other men that we’ve spoken to had a bit of an issue about, how, what, you know, men’s breast cancer should be called, I don’t know if you’ve got any views on that at all?

 
Well I don’t really see that it can be called anything else… but I mean I must admit from the point of view that, I, I think possibly to change it from breast to chest, as far as a man is concerned. I, I mean, I mean if you’re my size then you have got a bit of a bust, but, you know, the, you know, lots of men and that don’t have that, that, I think possibly that is about the only thing that I would say. But I mean, that, that’s only my personal thoughts on it. I mean it, it’s never embarrassed me to say that I’ve have breast cancer as compared to say I’ve had chest cancer, because probably the majority of people if you said chest cancer, wouldn’t know what you were talking about really. So (laugh).
 
So yeah.
 
Yeah.
 
Because some people have said as well that they, you know, they thought some people refer to male breast cancer, but you know they’ve said well why call it male breast cancer when we don’t call women’s breast cancer, female breast cancer?
 
Yeah that’s right.
 
But you don’t have too strong views on that.
 
No, no, I, you know, its cancer, its cancer, and its breast, its breast. It, it doesn’t you know, I’ve never felt that strongly about it you know. I’ve never felt sort of conscious of saying breast as compared to chest. 
 

Derek feels he would be far more self-conscious of his changed body image if he was a younger man.

Derek feels he would be far more self-conscious of his changed body image if he was a younger man.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

And to a certain extent, I mean I know it’s totally different for a woman, but my next door neighbour actually had it five years ago, so, you know I can sort of relate and talk to her about it you know, and she doesn’t mind talking about it. She’s just going through reconstruction, and I made the comment with the surgeon and said, I said about you know, “It looks odd”. So he said “We don’t do reconstruction for men” (laugh). So I said, “No, I’m sure you don’t, but I said, it would be nice to lose enough weight so that it wasn’t obvious”, but, when, when you are on the big side, then, you know, as a man you’ve still got a bit of a bust, so (laugh). But yeah that’s just one of these things and it’s a bit of vanity I suppose really.

 
We’re all entitled to a bit of vanity! (laugh) Yeah so you were saying before that you felt fairly self conscious with, you know, say going swimming or …?
 
Yeah, if I do go swimming because I’m supposed to belong to a health club but I haven’t been for a long time, but when I go there, they’ve got a pool and I did go in after it, but it, it’s fortunate in that it’s not a very busy pool, so, I you know, I didn’t worry about it too much. And I mean even from the point of view of changing rooms and that, it doesn’t worry me that much.
 
Do you feel as if people are looking at you or staring it at?
 
No, not really I don’t think, I can’t honestly say that you know I’ve ever been conscious of anybody sort of staring or, or anyone sort of saying “ooh what did you do?” or you know, ‘cos most people they’re a bit conscious about asking questions like that anyway.
 
And has the whole experience you know, having the surgery and I suppose being more conscious of your chest or, you know your bust as you called it, has, has that changed how you feel as a man at all over…?
 
I don’t think so, you know, and as I, I’ve said to you, I mean basically I’ve never been a very physical person so, you know, it, it, it hasn’t had that much affect on me at all. And I mean at my time of life, it’s even less really. I mean probably if I’d been much younger it might have been a bit different but I mean, at my age I don’t think it makes that much difference at all.
 
So how do you, how do you think a younger man may respond or…?
 
Well I think they might be far more conscious about, you know appearances and all the rest of it. But I mean that, that’s just me I, that’s what I feel if it had been sort of 20 years ago that it happened, then I, I feel that I might have been more sensitive about it, whereas now, it isn’t. I mean it’s not, but I think if it had been sort of 20 or so years ago, then I might have been a bit more conscious and, you know, about it.
Previous Page
Next Page