This is an editorial from October 2010. I stumbled upon it after finishing another editorial about Living Beyond Breast Cancer. It is written by a woman named Hannah Campbell – her husband has male breast cancer. This is a beautiful and touching tribute and I cried after reading it. It’s a year old so I hope Hannah and her husband Mike are doing fine. The article says they live in Havertown.
Read it. This one is for the guys. Male breast cancer does happen. This is honestly and beautifully written and it made me cry because it was so open.
And Hannah, I don’t want to take Tamoxifen either. But I know I have to…and thus far all my doctors are in agreement. And I am scared to take Tamoxifen. I have a history of gynecological issues like fibroids and ovarian cysts and all that good stuff. But the alternative to NOT taking it scares me more – I love life. And damn if you don’t think about that a lot after getting a cancer diagnosis or loving someone who has. Hannah I hope you and Mike are doing well. I don’t know you, but thank you for your editorial. It’s beautiful.
He’s a 6-foot-3, 280-lb. Teamster truck driver… the last person I’d imagine would get breast cancer. But that is exactly what happened in February 2009 when a core-sample biopsy showed a malignancy in my husband Mike’s chest.
For nearly four years Mike asked his physician about the lump above his breast. For four years the doctor assured Mike that it was “scar tissue.” Something didn’t feel right about it, so Mike finally requested that an ultrasound and biopsy be done. He later calmly e-mailed me that the results showed a 3.5-cm malignant tumor in his left breast, which had also spread to some lymph nodes. I raced from my desk at work to the ladies’ room where I cried so hard I couldn’t catch my breath. Our four children were also in shock over their dad’s cavalier e-mail.
For years I’d seen pink ribbons for breast-cancer awareness and I sympathized with those women who suffered from this dreaded disease, including my Aunt Kate, who had a double mastectomy in the 1970s. I don’t recall her having chemo or radiation or losing her hair back then; she seemed to do well afterwards and kept a stiff upper lip about it. On my part I faithfully had a mammogram done each year while I worried about the post-hysterectomy estrogen pills I took for 20 years. I never, ever thought men could get breast cancer…..Mike’s operation went well; the surgeon assured me that he got all of the cancer, including the affected lymph nodes. I asked a nurse, “What does cancer look like?” And she told me it looks like spongy mushrooms. For me, viewing Mike’s scar was traumatic… the full mastectomy’s incision ran midchest to under his armpit. Mike kidded that his incision looked like a shark bite.
Four rounds of chemo were to follow, and I cared for him thanks to the Family Medical Leave Act. Our sons shaved his head and called him “Daddy Warbucks,” “Kojak” and “Mr. Clean.” I on the other hand was stunned at his appearance for I remembered the beautiful curly thick head of hair of his that hung on him for the 38 years that I’d known him. His now bald head was the visible proof that cancer and chemo indeed coursed through his body….The toll Mike’s cancer has taken can’t be measured: he has gone through pain, suffering, worry and discomfort. He returned to work driving a truck after a long recuperative period: eight months. Our finances went into the toilet due to lack of 32 paychecks and yet I feel guilty for even mentioning that. Still, trying to pay bills and catch up also takes a toll and creditors don’t notice or care when one is ill.
Naturally we are grateful to God because this could have been devastating, as it is for others. There are far too many death notices stating breast cancer as the cause that snuffed out a vital life; I cringe when I read them. Could Mike’s cancer return? When? There is no guarantee with the insidious devil of cancer. Mike now takes chemo in pill form and his daily dose of Tamoxifen for the next five years is a preventative measure. He hates taking it, he hates the aches and pains, which could be a side effect or just signs of aging at 60. He debates dropping the pill and considers the risk of cancer returning versus not feeling well for the next five years. His oncologist insists; his primary-care doctor says he can stop taking it. The same guy who didn’t diagnose the lump for four years now has no credibility with me.
For all the men reading this, please know that male breast cancer exists. See your doctor and get a second opinion if need be. The pink ribbons we see represent breast-cancer awareness… for all of us.