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HGV King - Interview 06

Age at interview: 51
Age at diagnosis: 50
Brief Outline: HGV King was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. He had a mastectomy and radiotherapy. He was offered reconstructive surgery or a tattooed nipple but chose to have neither. He then had tamoxifen.
Background: HGV King is a lorry driver. He is single, and has a young daughter and 4 adult children. Ethnic background' White British (English).

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 HGV King was working as a lorry driver and was very physically fit. Whilst he was attending a routine medical in relation to his work, his GP asked him if there was anything else he wanted to discuss. He asked for a cream for his nipple which had been inverted for about 7 months. The GP referred him to the hospital for a scan and biopsy. He noticed a white dot on the monitor whilst he was having his scan and thought something might be wrong. He was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2007 and had his operation very quickly after diagnosis. He had radiotherapy over 3 weeks. He was looking after his young daughter then and had to take her with him to these appointments. He said he had had a fantastic surgeon and couldn’t fault the other staff.

He had good support from his children and his ex-wife, although he had felt let down by another family member and had become a bit of a recluse. He only had one friend locally that he could talk to, although he could talk to more distant friends on the phone. He had found it very difficult to tell his older children about his illness. This interview was one of the first in-depth one-to-one discussions he had had about his illness. He had experienced the loss of his father in 2006 and a number of friends and family since that time. He was conscious that people need understanding and support at these times.
He was taking tamoxifen and wondered whether there had been any research on side effects in men. He had aching joints and muscles. He sometimes felt that his temper could flare up more quickly and he could get angry about ‘silly’ issues. 
He had been offered reconstructive surgery or a nipple tattoo but couldn’t see the point of it at his age, although he didn’t feel comfortable about exposing his body (although this was not something he would normally do anyway). He was not able to do things like weight training because it aggravated his lymphoedeoma. After his operation he could hardly raise his arm at all and still has some trouble raising it above his head.
He had had some peer support over the phone, but he would have loved some one-to-one peer support in person from another man with breast cancer and thinks that a lot of men need counseling. He comments that many women get a lot of support when they get breast cancer. He would like to see both women and men mentioned in breast cancer leaflets. He was one of only two men to take part in a fashion show to raise awareness about breast cancer. 
He felt that having breast cancer had totally changed his life. He now felt that he was more understanding and caring. He felt that breast cancer still dominated much of his life and was reminded of it every time he looked in the mirror.
 
 

HGV King noticed his inverted nipple about six months before a medical for work. It was painless...

HGV King noticed his inverted nipple about six months before a medical for work. It was painless...

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 When did you first… can you remember the very first time you found the lump…?

 
I didn’t have a lump.
 
… or your inverted nipple?
 
I had an inverted nipple…
 
Right.
 
I found it, obviously six, seven months beforehand.
 
Right, were you in a shower, getting dried…?
 
Yeah, when I was showering.
 
Just showering.
 
And I looked down and saw it inverted and all I just kept trying to do was prise it back out again. I didn’t nothing of it, because it’s painless. There was no lump, it was just an inverted nipple.
 
That was all you had?
 
That was all I had. The lump was about an inch or so away from the nipple.
 
Right, so when did the lump appear, then?
 
It didn’t.
 
You just didn’t feel it?
 
I didn’t feel it.
 
It wasn’t till they did the investigations?
 
Yeah, and then I spotted in on that monitor. That’s how I saw a little white dot and as I say, two centimetres. It wasn’t that big. I’ve seen on the internet that people get a lot bigger than two centimetres, so I was lucky, but that’s where it should be put out there to men, for men to understand that they can get this because I was lucky because I had that medical, which is five-yearly. Now, if I’d have had that lump or that inverted nipple which I wouldn’t go to the doctors with because it was painless, it didn’t hurt me, and I wouldn’t have gone. So, I could’ve gone three years, four years down the line.
 
So did you know that men could get breast cancer?
 
No, not at the time.
 

HGV King had an inverted nipple for over 6 months. He asked for some cream for it at a work...

HGV King had an inverted nipple for over 6 months. He asked for some cream for it at a work...

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 Right, well it was July 2007, but my trade is a lorry driver. I’ve done it for thirty years, so it ended up where my medical was due. We have a medical at the age of forty-five, and then another one when you’re fifty. So every five years you have these medicals, and I was physically fit, very physically fit, and then my medical was due in 2007 so I went to the doctors and flew through that. No problems at all getting through my medical, and luckily for me, my doctor who is pretty caring, he turned round and said to me “Is there any other issues you’d like to discuss? Have you got any other problems?” And I said, “well yeah, I says, have you got any cream you can put on this”, and I had an inverted nipple. And he told me it was just for women who were like breast feeding and things like that, that they had a cream to draw the nipple out, so he asked me, how long have I had it, and I said, about seven months, and he… his face sort of dropped at the time, and he then said he’d like to send me to… just for a check up at the hospital. So, I just waited around, got my time to go to the hospital, went… got the appointment, went to the hospital and had the… they gave me the biopsy, scan first and then the biopsy, and I had an idea something was wrong, because they said to me, come back in a little while, so I went and had a coffee, and then when I went back, they called me in and as I was walking in now, I noticed on the monitor, a little white dot. So, she said to me, “Do you want to sit down?” And I said, “Well, should I sit down?” (laugh) And she said, “Well I think it would be better if you sat down”. So I sat down. I said, straightaway I just said, “Is it cancer?” And she said, “Well possibly”. She said, “It looks as though it could be cancer”, she said, “but we’ve got to take samples, get it checked out and you’ll be informed afterwards”. I said, “Well… because I don’t like needles at the best of times and I knew it was going to be a local anaesthetic and… and then obviously, a cut in and I’d be awake and I hate all this sort of thing, a bit squeamish that way, but she went through it. The third prod did hurt, I felt that, but I didn’t feel the first two and then she sent me away and I had to just wait for the results. Then they called me in and I had to go through all the scans then and I was told then it was breast cancer and it was two centimetres long but they caught it early. But fantastic staff, I couldn’t fault them. 

 

HGV King felt anxious when he was waiting for the results of his test, especially when he was...

HGV King felt anxious when he was waiting for the results of his test, especially when he was...

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Right, and then they done all the tests in the one day and you were called back in?

 
They done all the tests for this, yeah, to find out if I had got cancer. I can’t remember now if they did the… all the scans as well on the same day. I can’t remember if they did that or if they called me back, but you have to wait a week for your results. I think the first… I went in very quick for this, for the biopsy and then I think you go in and have your bone scan and all this business, or the scan the whole body, but they… that was it, that week… because I was worried about the person, the receptionist. The receptionist rang me and I wasn’t even told that I had cancer. I was just told I may have cancer so the receptionist rang me in the week and said to me, “Would you be able to come in on Friday?” And I said, “Well what for?” And she said, “Because we’d like to do a bone scan”, and that was it. I wasn’t even told that I’d got cancer, so my immediate thought was, I’ve got bone cancer. That worried me… because I didn’t know the procedure of all the scans that they had to do. So I was scared stiff then and I told my Macmillan nurse about it and she said, “Oh, I’ll find out who’s done it”. I said, “No, I don’t want to get anybody into trouble”. So, she said, “No, you won’t get them in trouble” she said, “but this sort of thing has got to be resolved”, you know? “They can’t… they’ve got to know that you don’t know if you’ve got cancer or not. They’ve got to know, that when they inform you of this, it’s just procedure”, so I felt really sorry for the receptionist. But no, nothing came of it but I was just lucky it wasn’t in the rest of me body it was just restricted to that area.
 

HGV King describes his radiotherapy sessions. The set up could take a long time, around twenty...

HGV King describes his radiotherapy sessions. The set up could take a long time, around twenty...

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 But I then went and had three weeks of radiotherapy. Not very nice stuff, but (laugh) it’s got to be done. And I have to take my daughter sometimes so I’d go in to have the treatment. It used to take them ages to set you up but I’d been in there and me daughter would be watching me on the monitor. So, she kept saying daddy’s on telly.

 
Aw. How old was she at the time?
 
She would have been three, yeah, just over three, about three and a half, about three, three years and three or four months, not very old. But she sat there good as gold round the back and as I say, it used to take them ages to set you up, it only takes a couple of seconds or so for… fourteen seconds to zap you. Setting up can take twenty minutes.
 
Right, why did it take so long?
 
Because you’re given the tattoos, tiny little dots, and they line you up and as you’re laying there, you can see… you can see all the lines as... I think green I think the lines that I have and they just set you up on these marks because everybody’s different. Everybody has to have different sizes and everything has to be set up but it can take them quite a while. Obviously, if it’s taking them a long time, at least you know they’re doing their job properly. [laughs]. And the staff, as I say, are fantastic, but some of the people you meet you… you’re sitting in a room with everybody that’s going through it and you used to get some giggles because some of the machines breakdown, they’re not all a hundred percent guaranteed, so you have to sit and wait for your turn which just takes a while sometimes. But, as I say, staff wise, absolutely fantastic.
 

HGV King developed a 'verbal anger' and felt more emotional for the first six months after having...

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HGV King developed a 'verbal anger' and felt more emotional for the first six months after having...

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 I never used to be like this. Obviously every person’s got a temper and everyone’s got something that will trigger that off, but I don’t know whether it’s because I’m angry of having breast cancer, not because it’s a female, so don’t get me wrong there, it’s not because it’s a female, classed as a female disease because it’s not but whether it’s because I’ve had breast cancer or I’ve had cancer, and that plays on my mind, or whether it’s a side effect from the tamoxifen, but the thing is, I mean, what can you put it down to?  We don’t know yet, but I never had these outbursts and anger, or trigger out of the blue, outbursts of anger before, before I had cancer. Maybe it is a side effect of tamoxifen. But you said, other men have also… are also getting the same type of reaction.

 
Is that new to you?
 
Yeah.
 
Have you heard that… you haven’t heard that before?
 
No, I’ve not, but then, this is also something where I wasn’t like it before and I wasn’t like it just after getting cancer, or just after going through it… within about six months or so, I never, I wasn’t like this, I was more depressed, more upset, I could just burst into tears. I still… I could still have tears now watching something soppy on the telly, I’d want to cry. I never used to but that’s where I say, it just changes you as a person because you’re more understanding and you feel as though you’re in there with that person on the TV and you feel for them, you know. But no, I mean, that’s where I say, when I first got diagnosed, and within about like the first six months to a year of being diagnosed, I was very emotional over a lot of things and silly things sometimes, but like I say, I could just sit there and for no reason at all, I’d end up in tears, I’d cry and… nobody else around, sometimes I’d sit and there were people about but mostly it’s at home when you’ve got nobody else there, you’re just there on your own, and something will just… you’ll be thinking about something or other, and just tears start coming down your eyes but now that does happen now and again but nowhere near as often but this anger issue, I don’t know what it is, I don’t know if it’s anger of having cancer, whether it’s anger of being on tamoxifen, whether it’s anger at my home situation, you know, there’s lots of things that could be triggering that off so I would never try and put the blame on just the drug…
 

HGV King appreciated the leaflet that was specific to men with breast cancer, but wondered why...

HGV King appreciated the leaflet that was specific to men with breast cancer, but wondered why...

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What did… what information did you get when you were diagnosed?
 
I got that information, and also as I said, I had a fantastic breast care nurse, Macmillan nurse allocated with me and I still see her as I said, but she goes… she went through everything with me. She was the one that got me to go on this fashion show because she’s got a friend that works down there, so no, I mean, it’s not just… I don’t think, how can you put it? They’ve gone out of they’re way so that when a man’s diagnosed with breast cancer, he can get this, he gets this booklet given to him but the one thing that gets me is, okay I didn’t know about it, didn’t know about men… could have it, and then I get it, I’m given this book, you’re reading through it and all this business, but my point is now, why can’t these leaflets have men and women with breast cancer going through this?
 
So have one generic leaflet sort of thing?
 
One leaflet. It must be easy enough to put men on there. You’ve only got to… it’s only a three-letter word, isn’t it? It’s true, though, isn’t it? And you… get the odd picture of a man on there, but you’re only adding in one three-letter word and that one three-letter word could save thousands, if not millions of lives.
 

HGV King’s breast care nurse invited him to a group for younger women with breast cancer. He has...

HGV King’s breast care nurse invited him to a group for younger women with breast cancer. He has...

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 Ah, yeah, no… as I say, I’m going though how it affected me, how it, mentally, affected me, but I think if I… other cancer sufferers, if they sat and… if they wanted to discuss it, as I was saying, this disease tends to… you meet so many other people that are going through it, ladies, not so much men, but you meet a lot of ladies that are going through it, and as I say, that brings me back to where… I feel as though I can discuss things easier, more comfortably with the ladies than I can with like a gentleman that’s sat there. If it’s a gentleman going through breast cancer, that’s a different issue, then I’d like to talk to him, but no, then you’ve got… okay you’ve got the other cancers as well but then you feel… it’s like that lady I was mentioning that suffered breast cancer then, now going through bone cancer, a secondary cancer, I really feel for her. I praise her and I look up to her because she’s so strong, she’s strong-minded and she’s… as I say, she’s not after the sympathy, she’s after the support, and we all give her the support, even though when we hear her stories, we’re sobbing, we’ve got tears all running down our eyes but I never, ever feel uncomfortable when I’m in their presence. I can sit, I can cry with them, I could go to the meeting or… with the group that I attend once a month with all the ladies, there’s no other man that goes, I’m the only gentleman there. But I can sit with all those ladies and I can tell my stories and listen to their stories and I can have tears roll down my eyes, and there’s no embarrassment there whatsoever.

 

HGV King enjoyed the ‘banter’ he could have with the female breast cancer patients he knew. He...

HGV King enjoyed the ‘banter’ he could have with the female breast cancer patients he knew. He...

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 The nurse I’ve got, she is fantastic and I still see her now. Actually, I’m going tomorrow, so… she’s got a little group which she’s set up herself. She’s a Macmillan nurse and she raises a lot for the breast cancer charity but she’s got her own little set group which she started for young women with breast cancer, and she’s asked them if they would like me to go, and I’ve been invited along each month to go and sit down and discuss things with them. So I took the [Breast Cancer Care] fashion show DVD in for them and they were very impressed with that. They liked that.

 
Do you feel well supported with them? Do you feel you’re included in the group when you go?
 
Yeah, yeah. It’s funny because like I said, there’s a reunion. When I went in January, went to a reunion with six other ladies from the show that I was in and they laugh and joke with me because they like my sense of humour, so they always… they come round and say that I’m one of the girls. They treat me as one of the girls, which is nice. I know… it’s nice where women can give you that banter and if… obviously you need a man that can take it. That doesn’t bother me. I like all the banter off the ladies. Actually, I have a better conversation with them than I do with the general Joe Public, but I’d like… I can sit down in a café and talk about this breast cancer for ages. It’s just something I like to do, but no it’s… it’s a, how can I put it? Where the women are concerned, I always look at it as their disease but and I like it, it’s like supporting them as well even though I know I’m getting that support off of them, I don’t look at it that way. I look at it… there’s one lady, she’s got breast cancer and secondaries now. She’s going through bone cancer as well. She turns up and everyone… we all look up to her, praise her so much and yet, she… when she starts talking about her issues, we’re all sitting in that room tears coming down our eyes. Emotionally breast cancer I think is just one of those types of diseases where it does, it seems to hit you here in your heart. I’ve changed me, in quite a few different ways. I feel I can give people more time and I’m a lot more considerate and kind … don’t know why, but it just seems as though this has affected me in that way.
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