Diagnosed with breast cancer in his right breast in 2009. He had a bilateral mastectomy because there was some evidence of early spread to the left breast. He chose not to have chemotherapy, but did have radiotherapy. He is currently taking tamoxifen.
Roy noticed a lump just above his right nipple whilst he was away on holiday. He saw his GP after he returned, and within half an hour of his appointment, his GP rang to say he had arranged an appointment for him at the local breast unit. Neither he nor his family had had any idea that men could get breast cancer. He found it rather daunting to be in the waiting room at the breast unit with so many women. He had a mammogram and returned later for a steriotactic biopsy.
Because he had evidence of some early cancer spread to his left breast, he had a bilateral mastectomy on his consultant’s advice (although he was also offered a lumpectomy) and the removal of some lymph nodes. He found his surgeon’s straight-talking attitude helpful. He recovered quickly from his surgery. He chose not to have chemotherapy because he thought, for the small additional improvement to his survival chances that it would offer him (2%), it was not worth the side effects. He did have radiotherapy, and said that the staff who administered it were brilliant which made it much easier. After he started his radiotherapy he developed a urine infection which was not immediately tested for or diagnosed. This made him feel really ill and he lost a lot of weight. He recovered well from this once he had been prescribed antibiotics.
Roy had been fit and healthy and doing strenuous physical work right up to the time of his diagnosis. People had been surprised by the level of fitness he had maintained for his age. After the surgery, radiotherapy and tamoxifen he felt really tired and was no longer able to continue working as a builder, with obvious financial implications. He could no longer lift without his chest muscles and he no longer had any grip in his left hand. He has been careful to keep his arms covered since his surgery and to avoid bites, scratches and cuts to prevent lymphoedema. On one visit to a small local hospital a phlebotomist challenged him very rudely when he said that she needed to draw blood from his foot instead of his arms. After she refused to do it, the hospital manager arranged for a very experienced nurse to take blood from his foot. Otherwise he had found the hospital staff to be caring and concerned.
He found that the tamoxifen made him more emotional to start with, but this settled down with time. He also found that his arms got really tired and achy, and his skin felt very itchy. The tamoxifen also makes him sleepy so he takes them at night. Because several of his family members had had cancer, he had genetic testing. He was pleased for his children and grandchildren when this came back negative.
Roy has always been a determined person with a laid back attitude to life; nothing panics him. He has never been a moaner and does not let things that he can’t do anything about bother him. He has a close and supportive family, so has not felt that he needed extra support himself, but he has often been asked to speak to other women with breast cancer and to a man with other cancers.