Reuben Board

Back in November 2022 I was working on a building site driving a telescopic handler in Exmouth East Devon, I squeezed past a stack of blocks and hurt myself on my right breast. A few days later, I did the same thing again and noticed that what I thought was a bruise had gotten a bit bigger.

Anyway, a week later it was still there, and I was thinking this doesn’t seem right, my auntie had breast cancer a few years ago and my grandmother’s sister had died from it back in the 80s, but I wasn’t sure if men could get it as well. A quick search on the internet and it was confirmed they can. I was thinking, oh dear I might have cancer, which isn’t the nicest thing I’ve ever thought. After talking about it to my girlfriend, I decided it was best to go to the doctor and get it sorted asap.

I popped along to the local health center and saw a male doctor who advised me to keep an eye on it and if it was still there in two weeks come back, I did try and say I’ve already done that but that’s what I had to do. A few weeks later I returned to be told yes you might have breast cancer we will refer you to the breast care team at Wonford hospital in Exeter. This was about the second week of December by now. I got an appointment rather quickly which was a relief and was sent to have a mammogram as a result of that I was given a needle biopsy and ultrasound of the breast. After a few days waiting the hospital confirmed that I had indeed got breast cancer and it had spread to the lymph nodes under my right arm. This was just before Christmas and not the Christmas present I was hoping for. After a few days I received a letter saying that they would like to do another needle biopsy just to confirm the results from the first as one wasn’t fully comprehensive. Back to hospital again and also booked in for a mastectomy in early January.

About a week later the results of the second biopsy came back confirming that it had already spread to the lymph nodes, this changed things quite a bit. Just after Christmas I had another appointment at the hospital and was told by the breast care team that surgery was going to be cancelled in January and I would need to do some chemotherapy first. Not what I wanted to hear anyway about a week later returned to the hospital in Exeter to meet the oncology specialist a very nice lady who to be honest frightened me and my mother with what she said. I would have to go for a CT scan to see if the cancer had spread anywhere else and possibly become Stage 4. After being explained to what this means I was more worried than before. They also told me I would need to have six cycles of chemotherapy three weeks apart and this would be unpleasant. They were Docetaxel and Carboplatin plus an injection of Phesgo in my leg.

It was at this point I realized I would be off work for longer than I thought and probably wouldn’t be able to pay for the house I had rented for the previous 14 years. Being self-employed there is no safety net of sick pay it’s basically no work no wages. This is when I had to make the decision to give the house up and luckily enough for me my parents have spare rooms where they live a few miles away and said I could come and stay with them until my treatment was over. Chemotherapy was due to start in March, so I had about a month to pack up the house move all my stuff into a spare room at my parents’ place.

In late February I was required to attend hospital again for the CT scan and bone scan as well this was all scheduled for the same day so I could continue to work as much as possible before March. A week after the results were in and worryingly enough a dark patch had been detected on my lung.  Being a smoker for most of my life, smoking cigarettes and weed, it didn’t really come as much of a surprise but as the lovely oncologist lady said I would be extremely unlucky to have two sorts of cancer at the same time, but I would still need to have a ebus biopsy which is basically taking samples from inside the lung. More stress as you can imagine. Anyway, I underwent the ebus and waited about ten days for the results which to my delight came back negative it wasn’t cancer but was probably caused by the smoking. Which the oncology specialist made a point of telling me to stop. She was leaving breast cancer care and moving on to lung cancer care because, in her words, I think we can do the same with lung cancer as we have with breast cancer which is basically cure it if it’s found early enough. If you don’t want to see me again, I suggest you stop smoking. Wise words indeed.

The chemo finished in June, and I was then scheduled for a mastectomy in August. This went well apart from a seroma a few weeks after the operation. I had to attend hospital with the breast care team to have the fluid drained off a couple of times at that was fairly unpleasant.

I was then booked in for five radio therapy treatments starting in November and started the second lot of chemotherapy; This chemotherapy wasn’t very bad at all with hardly any side effects. My hair even started to grow back. I had a mammogram in January 2024, and that came back all clear. I have to take Tamoxifen for the next five years, but I don’t get any side effects from that.

All in all, I feel so lucky to have had the outcome I’ve had as I know so many people with breast cancer don’t. I’ve recently moved into a new place and have started work again, so life is getting back to some sort of normality.

Raising awareness in men has become a bit of a challenge for me because I’ve spoken to plenty of men that didn’t even know men could get breast cancer. Earlier this year my son and I travelled to London to take part in the wear it pink photo shoot which is a campaign setup by breast cancer now which is a charity. They produce leaflets for people with breast cancer and fund research into it. I found the leaflets extremely helpful, so it was nice to be able to give something back for the help I had received. The wear it pink campaign is in October this year so please keep an eye open for it and feel free to support it yourself.

I hope this helps any men who read my story and gives them encouragement that a positive outcome is possible as long as you get treatment or medical assistance early enough.

Thank you to for allowing us to share this story.

Special thanks to Davina Jethwa

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