Doug Harper

I was just an average good guy and then I found out that I was different. I became one of only 300 men a year in the UK to have breast cancer! I had no idea before being diagnosed, that men could get breast cancer. My partner had no idea that men could get breast cancer.

A few days before Christmas 2011, I went to see my doctor. To be honest, I was getting worried about the lump on my nipple which seemed to have escalated in the last couple of months. My doctor looked concerned when he saw the lump and sent me for a scan. I was worried, but in the back of my mind I was thinking that it would all be fine. This kind of thing happens to other people. Two weeks later I went for tests and had to wait until 12 January, three days before my 50th birthday.

I walked out of the hospital and wondered how I was going to tell Sarah, my partner and my kids and my mum. I rang Sarah and told her. I found out later that she cried her eyes out. I then rang my ex-wife so she could tell my four daughters and they cried their eyes out as well.

My mastectomy was to be in 11 days, but the day before I was due to have surgery, I was diagnosed with diabetes, so my surgery was delayed about a month. I would have to have my blood sugar tested again a week before the operation, and it was imperative that I eat sensibly and stay stress free. I finally had surgery on 7 March and for once there were no dramas. I went in at 7am and came out at 7pm. A week later I saw my consultant who told me one of the 20 lymph glands removed was found to have cancer and I would need another operation and would have Chemo and maybe radiotherapy after, as a precaution.

A week later, when chemo was due, the area where I had the mastectomy had become infected because the drain had fallen out after my last operation. I had to have the area drained. Unfortunately, needles failed and I had an operation to drain it all and get rid of the abscess that had appeared. When I left hospital, it was arranged that I would have visits from the district nurses to change my dressings. I had a vacuum fitted under my arm and I was informed that the wound may take up to six weeks to heal. This was bad news, as I would not be able to have chemo until it was healed. And my chemo was even in doubt.

The day of reckoning came on 20 June when I told my doctor of my concerns of not having chemo. He listened, and I had six rounds of chemo that affected me to varying degrees and 15 sessions of radiotherapy that ended just before Christmas 2012.

I had been made redundant before my diagnosis, and 10 years on I hardly ever go out because of chronic fatigue syndrome due to being on tamoxifen. This has obviously affected my hobbies and seeing friends. However, I’m still an activist and a campaigner for men with breast cancer.

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