James is a 3-year male breast cancer survivor who lives in Daytona Beach, Florida and has a new mission in life - to spread the word that breast cancer is not just a woman's disease. Some special women provided support during his treatment, and continue to help him overcome the depression that snuck up on him after his diagnosis. He really wants to educate other men about the symptoms and risk of male breast cancer. Here's his story.
James' Male Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Age at diagnosis: 59
Breast cancer type: A type of Invasive Breast Cancer
Lymph Node Status: Large nodes near heart affected
Tumor Description: HER2 positive, Stage 3
Treatments: Mastectomies, Chemotherapy, Herceptin
Hormonal Therapy: Aromasin
Time in Remission: 3 years
Men Don't Get Breast Cancer
I was working for a lawn care company in September of 2006 and my left nipple started to hurt whenever I put my pen in my shirt pocket. At that time I did not worry about it. Well, the pain got worse, and I told people that I was getting breast cancer - but no one believed me. They said, "Men don't get breast cancer." On New Years weekend when I rolled over in bed, I came up off the bed. That is when I went to see the doctor.
Man Endures Mammogram
When the doctor said he wanted a mammogram and ultrasound, I asked him how he was going to get it, because I weighed only 118 pounds, skin and bones. The doctor said they could - and they did. Now I know what women mean when they talk about it. When the doctor got the results he did not like them, so he ordered a biopsy and it came back positive. For some reason I knew it would, so it did not surprise me.
I had two mastectomies, 10 months apart. The first was done on Feb. 14th. 2007 on the left side and I started chemo a few weeks later. My sister up north is a nurse and she asked if I would consider having genetic testing done. I have two sisters and three brothers. Yes, I had it done and it came back positive, HER/2, and showed that I'm prone to five other cancers, including more breast cancer. My brothers and sisters had it done and they came back negative. I talked to my doctor about taking off my right breast before it developed cancer and he agreed. On December 5th 2007 they took off my right breast. From what I understand cancer was just starting on that side. They stopped chemo for a few weeks when I had my second surgery.
Chemo and Herceptin
I really can't remember what chemicals they used, but when they started the Herceptin, it damaged over 25% of my heart and they had to stop it. I was on chemo almost a year. The treatments weren't too bad. They accessed my port for infusions, so that helped a lot. When the treatment started I just laid back and took a nap until they were done. For the next day or so I did have some discomfort but it wasn't too bad. Later, I started to get bone loss. Now I take Aromasin and Fosamax.
Get Plenty of Support
This is, to me, the most important part of getting better. The more support you have, the better you get. Yes, I had some! My family up north would call every now and then to check on me. My ex- wife Glenda helped me get through the surgery and chemo. I didn't have many friends - just my co-workers and only two of them really cared. There was a support group I started going to, but I was the only male there, and I guess I made them uncomfortable so they would not talk freely. This one lady, Karen, saw what was happening and she told everyone off and then she quit coming to the group. I stopped attending shortly after also. My depression was getting the best of me and I could not handle it. Out of the blue that same lady called me to get together for lunch. She is still helping me cope. We are just good friends still. Karen is stage 4, but she helped me with the depression and believing in God.
Staying Active in Remission
These days I do some fishing; I go to car shows and cruise-ins whenever I can. Three days a week I'm a security officer. Most of the time I'm talking to anyone and everyone about Men's Breast Cancer.
Advice For Men
I'm a 3-year male breast cancer survivor. It upsets me a lot when I hear about women's breast cancer all the time and no one wants to talk about men's breast cancer. They say not enough men die from it. It is my understanding that more men who get it die from it because they don't know they have it. This may be true and may explain why men's breast cancer is on the rise. I feel I got it for several reasons, but the main one is to help pass the word that men can get it too. Men can get breast cancer, so please learn the male breast self-exam. If anything doesn't feel right - please see your doctor. I only wish I had done so sooner.