Ken was diagnosed with male breast cancer in autumn 2019, but says he’s lucky because he knew to check, and lucky to have been supported throughout.
Breast cancer can happen to men too and it should not be kept quiet
At the end of August in 2019, I was taking a long hot shower when I noticed something strange and thought to myself, ‘that doesn’t feel quite right’. Having been involved with Breast Cancer Care* through my marketing job, I had been exposed to some of the information they had circulated.
Most people don’t know that men can develop breast cancer, and if they do know, they probably don’t know much about detecting it. In many ways, I was lucky that I had been involved with Breast Cancer Care*, because I knew a little bit about male breast cancer. So, as I stood there in the shower, something went, ‘ding ding ding’.
At first I didn’t want to tell anyone
I found the lump under my nipple on a Friday of a bank holiday weekend, and I didn’t tell anyone until the Sunday, when I finally told someone. They insisted that I go and get it checked out immediately.
I went to my local doctor on the Tuesday, who referred me to a local breast unit that specialised in male breast cancer. At every point along the way I was told that it would be highly unlikely that it was anything more serious, to the point where I still went on my pre-arranged holiday, but nonetheless I got a biopsy and the result came back a week after.
I walked into the clinic and before I even sat down, the doctor said, ‘well you’ve got breast cancer’. Without skipping a beat, we immediately began planning for the surgery and for whatever else was needed. I found myself saying, ‘no, I can’t come in that soon as I have work commitments’, and it wasn’t until my employer told me that everything else could wait, that I started processing what was really happening. I had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
It took time to process, and a bit of help
I’ve never considered myself a particularly calm person under pressure, but when I was diagnosed I found that I simply had to keep calm. I simply took one day at a time, and did what I had to do.
So, I had my single mastectomy 2 days later, and with a good outcome. It was decided that the mastectomy had worked well enough that I didn’t need to go through chemotherapy or radiotherapy, but that I would go on hormone therapy pills.
Everything took time to process, both the physical implications of breast cancer, and the mental and emotional. I went straight back to work after my mastectomy, but found myself struggling with my mental health. No one around me was going through the same things as me. I had met other men with breast cancer at my clinic, but there were few of us and each going through our own journey and different diagnosis’.
It could be isolating at times
I sought out psychological help through the NHS, and it was one of the best things I did. I received amazing support throughout my recovery and treatment, and it was invaluable being able to speak to a trained professional about my situation. I feel very lucky that I was able to access this support, and want to share my story to let other people to know how important it is to prioritise mental health throughout a breast cancer diagnosis.
I know it sounds cliché, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I feel stronger. I have developed a resilience I never knew I had. I feel lucky that I knew men could get breast cancer. There are a lot of men out there who don’t know and therefore don’t check themselves. Maybe they would feel emasculated by having what’s seen as a woman’s disease, but breast cancer can happen to men too and it should not be kept quiet.
It’s still out there – it’s still impacting people – but we can do something about it
Because I’d been involved with Breast Cancer Care* and Breast Cancer Now, I saw the amazing things that we achieved together. I’ve personally seen how useful the communication materials were and learnt a lot from the information available through their services. I also saw what they were doing was something positive, providing hope for the future.
I love that wear it pink is a positive and happy event. The hard realities of breast cancer are real. But for me, I like that people can make an impact by doing something that brings joy and is fun. Campaigns like wear it pink are shining a light on breast cancer, saying ‘it’s still out there – it’s still impacting people – but we can do something about it’. We can stay positive and join the fight.
*Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Now merged in 2019 and is now known as Breast Cancer Now