Two weeks before I felt my first lump, I had gotten a new tattoo. The doctor told me the ink from the tattoo went to the tumor and pissed off the tumor causing the pain. I guess you can say my tattoo saved my life.
On November 14, 2013, I woke up at 2:00am with a pain in my armpit. When I rubbed the area, I felt a marble. I told my wife Jackie and the next day we went to see the doctor. He was busy and I was sent to his assistant, a woman. She examined me and noticed the marble sized lump. She didn’t like what she was feeling and suggested I go for a needle biopsy the same day. The results came back inconclusive and so did the follow up ultrasound. When I returned to the doctor, he sat me down and told tell me I had breast cancer. The pathology report was Stage III non-aggressive, slow-growing breast cancer.
The doctor sent me to the oncologist, Dr. Patel who confirmed I had breast cancer and needed a mastectomy. Within a few days I was in the hospital being prepped for surgery. I had the mastectomy and 14 lymph nodes removed, four of them were cancerous. I was released the next day and went home with a drain. The drain stayed in place for about seven days. During this time, I went for my check-ups and was healing and before long I started my chemo treatments, one day every three weeks. About day number 18, and this was the most memorable part of all of this, I started feeling more like myself. I was feeling more confident. Day 19, I was able to drive again.
In the meantime, I looked in the mirror, had no hair whatsoever, no arm hair, no leg hair, no eyebrows, I no longer looked the same. All the rounds of chemo scared the hell out of me. I have a gun safe here with guns and my checkbook’s in there too. I was writing checks and ran out, so I asked Jackie to get me some more. My mind was altered at that time. I didn’t like it. I was depressed. I never used the word suicide, but I could see why people going through what I was dealing with would think about it.
Next came the radiation. I was only the second male breast cancer patient they had treated at CBCC. I wondered how they knew how much radiation to give me. I no longer had breast tissue because they removed it. The radiation burned right out my back. I had 33 rounds of radiation.
At my nine-month checkup everything was good. Three days later I found a lump on my other breast. No surgery, but I was put on Tamoxifen twice a day for seven years. I sure do hope the seven years goes by fast.
At the urging of my two daughters, I did genetic testing and am negative for the BRCA mutations. The support I received from my co-workers has been wonderful and although my workload has decreased, I am still working. I mentor cancer patients supporting them through their journeys. I truly believe I was given this disease to do exactly what I am doing now, helping others.
When I go for mammograms, the letterhead is pink, the cup with the pens is pink, the balloons are pink. While I’m okay with so many things being highlighted with pink, I want to know why we can’t get a little blue in there. I’m a mechanic, I am a man’s man, and I don’t want another man to feel embarrassed by having breast cancer.
In Dec of 2021 I retired. In March of 2022, I was told that my breast cancer came back on the other side. Since then, I had another mastectomy, more PET and CT scans. I had a port-a-cath put in my chest. A biopsy of my chest which meant putting a needle into my nipple. It hurt like hell. Now because both arms have had lymph nodes removed, they don’t want blood-pressure cuffs on either arm. For the second time in my life, I was told that I am in remission. However, I will most likely be under some kind of care or scans to make sure it doesn’t.