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Eric - Interview 05

Age at interview: 78
Age at diagnosis: 70
Brief Outline: Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. He had a mastectomy and 5 or 6 lymph nodes removed. He then had chemotherapy over 6 months, with radiotherapy on 15 days halfway through his treatment. He then had tamoxifen. Later had Arimadex for a short time.
Background: Eric is a retired engineer. He is married and has one adult child. Ethnic background' White British (English.

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 One day Eric noticed that his nipple was flat, not sticking up, then a week later that it was inverted. His wife said he should go to the doctor the next day. He was referred for further checks which revealed that he had cancer. He was quickly admitted for surgery. He agreed to have photographs taken during his treatment that could be used for training.

After the operation Eric had to stay in hospital for 5 nights. After he left hospital he had a lot of swelling over the wound which had become infected. The wound needed to be drained most days for around 4 weeks. He had to wait to have his chemotherapy until the wound no longer needed to be drained.
Eric then had chemotherapy over 6 months, with radiotherapy on 15 days halfway through his treatment. He feels that the chemotherapy has altered his character. Before he felt much more happy-go-lucky, but now he is much quicker to lose his temper. 
He had never dreamt that men could get breast cancer so it was a surprise to get his diagnosis. He was frustrated that there was so little information and support for men with breast cancer. He felt very alone as a man with breast cancer. He really felt that he wanted to talk to someone in the same position as him. After asking, sometime later he was put in touch with another man with breast cancer and they were able to meet up and talk. He found it really helpful to share his experiences with this man who had been diagnosed 3 or 4 years before him. He has volunteered to speak to other men with breast cancer but so far has not been contacted by the hospital. He tells everyone that he has breast cancer. He has found that women listen with interest but men just don’t want to know. He feels passionate about informing people that men can get breast cancer and that they should be encouraged to check themselves for breast cancer symptoms.
 
 

Eric found it tiring to travel to the hospital and to wait whilst they ran tests and prepared the...

Eric found it tiring to travel to the hospital and to wait whilst they ran tests and prepared the...

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That must have been very tiring, going backwards and forwards.

 
It was, but then when you do your chemo, you have the chemo in your hand but the day before you’re having the chemo you have to get a blood test, go back to the hospital, well, the hospitals can have it, up at the hospital and have a blood test, they stick it in the vacuum chute and “schtoomp” it’s in the laboratory, to make up whatever mixture they think I ought to have. That was another problem, another tiring problem. Alright, they had, they have to make each dose to suit the person that day, but I’ve been at the hospital waiting my turn. I got there just before time, I’d been waiting three or four hours for this stuff to come from the lab, and it’s… ain’t spoke to anybody that’s had it but it ain’t nice at all. Like a milk bottle And stick it in and… about five or six sorts of bottle, a little one about this big and stick it in and they said that’ll make your bum itch, and it did.
 
Did it?
 
I put it in here and within seconds, my bum itched. But only for a couple of minutes and it had gone. I said, “Phew, that’s quick, it’s got to go from here all up there, round here, down there”. 
 
 

The hospital wrote to Eric to ask if he would like free sessions of aromatherapy about two years...

The hospital wrote to Eric to ask if he would like free sessions of aromatherapy about two years...

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So throughout all of this, the surgery, the chemo and the radiotherapy, it was just your wife that you were really getting support from?

 
Yes.
 
There was no-one else?
 
Well… no, I don’t think there was a lot of support anyway. I saw the breast care nurse once or twice but I think that was more or less just seeing how I am. The only other thing, I think, I had aromatherapy The only other thing, I think, I had aromatherapy for six weeks every day for six weeks at the hospital, and that was paid for by Marks and Spencers.
 
Oh, lovely! How did you get that?
 
Pardon?
 
How did you get that?
 
The hospital just wrote to me, would you like six weeks of aromatherapy? Yes please! I said well, it can’t do any harm, can it? Went to the hospital and this girl told me Marks and Sparks were paying for it. Whether it still continues or not, I don’t know. I had my six weeks and that was that.
 
Good. And when was that? Was that while you were getting the chemotherapy as well or…?
 
No, no that was a couple of years later.
 

Eric stresses the importance of greater awareness of breast cancer in men by telling a story...

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Eric stresses the importance of greater awareness of breast cancer in men by telling a story...

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 I think that were, telling other people about it was quite easy, because I do feel passionately that men should know that’s a possibility. You know allowed to, we’re advised to check everywhere else, but not there. In fact, some people who my wife knew lived in London sent us a cutting out of the Times some years ago about men’s breast cancer. It was half a page, and one chap went to the doctor’s with bleeding from his nipple and the doctor said “oh, that’s your seatbelt rubbing” but it took him five years to get to the stage I got to in three months, because I [inaudible] and then he went to a meeting and took his jacket off, sat there at this meeting and the man next to him… “are you alright?” He says “yes, why?” and his shirt was covered in blood. Then they did a lumpectomy and then they checked what they’d taken out and they decided he would have a mastectomy, so it took him nearly five years to get to the stage I was at, and that surprised me that GPs didn’t know men could get breast cancer. As I say, I’m always thankful to my chap who realised what it was.

 

Eric had felt alone with no one to go to. He found it very worthwhile to meet and talk to another...

Eric had felt alone with no one to go to. He found it very worthwhile to meet and talk to another...

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 But I say, the thing that did annoy me was feeling alone. I mean, 40-odd thousand women, they’ve got support groups. Who do I go to? Nobody. You sit and ponder yourself.

 
Were you offered any support groups or networks?
 
Well, only this one man who’d been in touch with me, or I presume that’s the only other man in [area], I don’t know.
 
But you had asked to meet someone else, no-one offered you the chance?
 
Well, I knew they say this man in [city], and this was quite a long time after. But… it was, it was very worthwhile, going to [town] and having a couple of pints and having a word with him. It was very, very worthwhile.
 
What sort of things did you want to know? Did you just want to share your experience or…?
 
Share me experience and how you felt and how long it’d be before you felt reasonable again. He’d been… I think he said it was three or four years since he’d had his mastectomy, and he said “oh, I’m just about getting over it now”. I thought three years to go. But I still go to the hospital.
 

When Eric tried to raise awareness that men could get breast cancer, men didn’t seem to want to...

When Eric tried to raise awareness that men could get breast cancer, men didn’t seem to want to...

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When you were… first got your diagnosis, who did you tell?

 
Everybody I come into contact with. Spread the word that men can get it.
 
And what was the reaction of other people?
 
Other women listened with interest. Men just didn’t want to know. “Oh, that’s a woman’s disease, men don’t get that.”
 
Right. Were there any men that were interested?
 
Never found one except this man from [city].
 
So…
 
I’ve never found one.
 
You’ve never had another man apart from that man you met who’d had breast cancer himself, you’ve never had a positive experience of telling someone “I’ve had breast cancer” and they’ve been interested, like a man?
 
Not really, not really.
 
No.
 
When you tell people they say “oh” and that was the end of it. Whether they thought about it when they got home, I don’t know.
 
How did that make you feel?
 
Very alone. Very alone.
 
Who… was there anyone that you didn’t tell?
 
No, I don’t think there was. Everybody I come into contact with. Just to spread the word, men can get breast cancer.
 

Eric feels self-conscious about his scar and wouldn’t want to walk around with nothing on. It...

Eric feels self-conscious about his scar and wouldn’t want to walk around with nothing on. It...

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 And… in Fiji, I mean, it’s nice and warm and there are nice pools. I wouldn’t take me shirt, I don’t take me shirt off anyway, being fair-skinned, I get burnt very easily. But I wouldn’t go in the pool. My wife swims now, although she’s a bit older than I am, she swims twice a week. She said “oh, come with me, good exercise.” I’m like this, “I don’t know whether I want to go”. Sometimes I want to go swimming, but I don’t want to walk about with nothing on. I’m self-conscious about it. I’ll have to finish, I think we shall have to make a go, cos I go to the gym now once a week. My wife comes to the gym and she goes swimming twice a week, and she says “oh, come swimming with me, that’s the best exercise out.” But I haven’t got round to it yet. Yes, I am self-conscious about it.

 
Has anyone ever seen it, the scar, apart from medical staff and your wife?
 
No, I don’t think they have. Don’t think they have.
 
What do you think other people’s reactions are going to be?
 
What have you been up to? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s… perhaps I think entirely different I suppose if it was a woman had been there, she’d know what it was. But when he said there’d be no scar, it’ll just be a fold there’ll be no scar, but it is a scar about that long [mutters] here down underneath, it’s all wrinkly all along it. Because of this infection, I think I had but that didn’t cause me any problem. Didn’t cause me any problem having a shower or anything, just the problem of exposing your body. I think I ought to go, I’m sure I ought to go, but I can’t… get to it yet.
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