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Dave’s mother was always vigilant about possible signs of cancer, which is why he went straight to the GP when he found a lump. After completing treatment in 2016, he now does all he can to raise awareness – especially amongst men.
I found the lump on my birthday in 2015. I was on holiday in Florida at the time, and noticed it first thing in the morning when I had a shower.
I’ve always been vigilant about these things, as my mother always told me to be – and for good reason; I lost a brother to leukaemia when he was only three years old, so she was hypersensitive to anything of that nature.
So, when I was back in the UK, I went straight to my GP. She was fabulous. She told me it was probably a cyst, but referred me to the breast cancer clinic just to be safe. When I got there, the specialist’s reaction was the same: it’s probably nothing, but he would still take a look.
When he ran the ultrasound, I saw his face change.
He actually called down to the receptionist and told them to hold off on sending off some biopsy tissues, as he wanted to take one from me and send it along at the same time.
A week later, I was told I had stage three breast cancer. It was a very aggressive form: just a few more weeks and it may have been too late to catch it as a primary diagnosis.
I was obviously shocked by the news, but decided from the start that I would be obstinate as hell towards the cancer.
My sister actually works on an oncology ward, and she said that the people who seem to do best in treatment are those who a) take their medication exactly as directed, and b) go in with a positive attitude.
The day I was diagnosed, I signed up to do the Moonwalk, and ended up doing it just after my final chemo session. My oncologist thought I was stark-raving bonkers for doing it, and I did struggle a bit, but it gave me something to focus on.
When I applied for it, I was asked what my reason for walking was. I noted that I was a man with breast cancer, and Walk the Walk (the charity that runs the event) picked up on it. Since then, I’ve been working with them on helping to raise awareness of male breast cancer.
At the time of my diagnosis, very few people seemed to be aware that men could get breast cancer. And even in places that did have awareness, men were overlooked.
For example, when I went to the breast clinic with my partner, the receptionist would instinctively talk to her at the desk because she’s a woman. Plus, the clinic itself is very pink and feminine.
There also wasn’t really any support specifically for men with breast cancer.
And I know that there are only about 350 men a year diagnosed, so it’s not right to expect to be catered to at the same level, but even just a bit of acknowledgement that men are susceptible or some more gender-neutral colours in clinics would be appreciated.
Because of this, I make a habit of calling in to radio shows if they’re discussing breast cancer and reminding them that they should make a point of mentioning that men can get it too.
From my point of view, there are two main elements when it comes to educating the wider public. The first is just spreading that awareness and encouraging people to check themselves, and the second is encouraging men to actually go to the doctor if they have symptoms.
There seems to be this attitude amongst men that we can just ‘tough it out’, and so sometimes we don’t go to the doctor as soon as we should. But if something about your body changes and doesn’t go back to normal within a few weeks, you’ve got to go to the GP!
A lot of people don’t realise that a significant number of cancers are only picked up in A&E, because people wait for symptoms to get severe before doing something about it. Unfortunately, by that point, it’s often too late – so I encourage people to get checked out.
Remember, nobody is going to mock you for checking a symptom. It’s always better to be on the safe side.