Derek was eventually diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 after his GP had been slow to refer him for a mammogram. He had a mastectomy, and chemotherapy, radiotherapy and tamoxifen.
Derek’s wife had first noticed a change to his nipple and they asked a doctor at the hospital about it when they were there for an unrelated issue. He advised him to see his GP. However his own GP dismissed his concerns and he had to persist to get a referral to see a specialist. When he received his diagnosis he felt totally unprepared and shocked at the news.
He was very seriously ill whilst having chemotherapy when he delayed seeking help when his temperature began rising due to an infection. He was soon hospitalised and required intravenous antibiotics to recover. He felt as that he had had a near death experience. He managed to get through the rest of his treatment (including tamoxifen) without any further side effects.
After surgery he required physiotherapy for the lymphodema in his arm and to get the flexibility back to ensure he could lie in position for his radiotherapy. He still has to do the exercises to control the lymphodema. He felt uncomfortable during his time on the breast cancer ward in hospital despite being in a side room. He saw the women were given handbags to carry their drains around and he felt upset that he had to put his in a carrier bag. His wife brought him in a bumbag which worked really well and he suggested to the ward that they should get some for men. He is still regularly asked at the pharmacy whether his prescription is for him when he collects his tamoxifen prescription.
He finds it difficult to listen to information about breast cancer and does not want to know too much. His wife knows a lot more and tells him what he needs to know. His wife has been a huge support to him and had been with him throughout his treatment. He struggled to come to terms with his diagnosis and at times has been frustrated and angry with people. He has felt unable to control his temper sometimes and is upset and embarrassed about the way he has spoken sometimes. He has had some counseling but he did not find it helpful. He felt that the support and love he received from his family was all that he needed.
Although it is eight years since his diagnosis, he still feels breast cancer is never far from his mind and he finds himself checking his body for lumps whilst watching television. He has been open about his diagnosis and has since talked and supported neighbours – both men and women – who were diagnosed with breast cancer. He sees this as payback; for the support he has received. He wants to help raise awareness that men can get breast cancer and gets frustrated when men are never mentioned in the media or in breast cancer fundraising activities.