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At the recent Warriors of Hope annual Golf Tournament a number of the Warriors asked me about my recent mastectomy and we did a little ‘compare and contrast’ discussion. There were a quite a few similarities in the pre and post operation experience but what some wanted to know how I thought it was different for a man to have a breast removed. I know some of the trauma my wife Diana went through at the time of her surgery and being a Warrior Groupie for more than 15 years, I did pick up more information and feelings.
One of the things my surgeon mentioned was the scar. Yes, I said, I won’t worry about that. No doubt it will be a conversation starter at the swimming pool, but we macho men tend to flaunt our battle scars. I will wear the same old green bathing suit. The ladies, probably not. Of course, the Dr continued, you won’t have reconstruction. Well, no. But that is a big decision for a woman. Not only having one, or perhaps no breasts affects the psyche but it may also affect how your partner views you. Sure, it’s the inner person we all love but there is that lingering doubt about how you will be viewed by loved ones. And others. The struggle to get a good-looking and well-fitting prosthesis is not as easy as it sounds. And a reconstruction is not without its trials. Thank heavens for not having to go through that.
Of course there is the child bearing decisions for the younger women and the nagging thought that you may be passing along those bad genes. It is not something I, or probably few men ever thought about. With the incidence of male breast cancer on the rise, maybe we should be thinking about that. Which brought about the next question: How did you find the cancer?
Likely the same way you did, was my answer. I felt a little tenderness in the breast; did the breast exam the same way as you; found the little lump; called my GP. He did the routine breast exam and ordered a mammogram. I’ve heard all about mammograms – how they hurt like hell, how the additional x-rays may cause breast cancer and so on. I probably scowled at the young lady doing the exam or maybe she had some other grumpy old man for a client in the past, but she was very careful and kept asking if she was hurting me. Well, my breast was much smaller than a woman’s and it really wasn’t too bad. For now, men, just do the self-examination. Your partner can show you how.
The worse thing about the experience so far – and we all agreed on this – was the waiting. On finding a lump, your worse fear is that you have breast cancer. I knew and my GP knew. The mammogram confirmed it for the surgeon. Then I waited for a biopsy. And waited for the results of that test. Then waited for another doctor’s appointment to make an appointment for surgery and then waited for an appointment to discuss the results of the surgery and the waiting seems to go on and on. There is something dreadfully wrong with our system here in Ontario. We have been in the age of information sharing now for over a decade. It’s time the Health system caught up with the rest of us.
Surely I know that nobody ever died from breast cancer. What gets you is the spread of the cancer to vital organs. And it may be spreading while you wait. We all agreed that the best thing to do while we waited was to keep a positive attitude and have hope. That is what I am doing. And that is the way of the Warriors of Hope: Heart – Determination – Strength. Keep that seat in the engine room open for me next spring.