Diagnosed with male breast cancer
In a way, my husband was very lucky to be crushed by a cow in October 2015. As a farm animal veterinarian, the injuries he sustained were a hazard of the job and it was only because of the severe bruising, caused by the animal, that he noticed the small, pea-sized lump under his nipple.
A diagnosis of male breast cancer soon followed and in 2017 we found it had spread to his lungs. Like with any shock, it’s the initial adrenaline that sees you through. Our youngest child was eight years old at the time and trying to maintain a semblance of normal home life was exhausting.
Support from family and friends
My sister came to stay with us following David’s mastectomy and during his chemotherapy. Having another capable adult in the house was a Godsend; she cooked, chatted, laughed, and looked after the children so that I could focus on David. It was so very generous of her to drop everything and come to help.
At the start of our long cancer journey, lots of friends wanted to help, too. They visited, brought food, rang, and wrote to see how we were doing. But, then, one by one, most dropped away to continue their own lives, which is normal, but still makes me sad and resentful. The most helpful and supportive friends aren’t the ones that send the conventional let-me-know-if-you-need-anything text. What you want are the ones that say exactly when they’re coming over, or where they’re taking you out, and they won’t take no for an answer. It’s really uplifting when a friend texts or rings as we go into hospital for yet another scan or check-up just to wish us luck. The most valuable friends are the ones who are happy and comfortable talking about David’s secondary breast cancer.
Living with cancer is relentless
If you haven’t been through cancer, you will never understand the relentlessness of it. It’s constant and all-consuming. It just continues and continues and continues. There is only one end and there is nothing I can do to avoid it. More recently, I have found coping with David’s cancer very hard. I’m grieving while he is still alive. I receive counselling from Breast Cancer Haven to help me deal with this, which has been superb and so beneficial.
An incredible weight to bear
David is mentally very strong. Not once has he allowed the weight of his cancer to damage our family. He has never complained, or acted out of character, or done anything else other than remain upbeat and positive. Our children say he “keeps his positive pants on.” I’m immensely grateful to him for this. He says it’s worse for me, because I must watch him go through thick and thin, and because in the end it will be me left without him.
Allowing time to live separate lives
My life is quite narrow now due to David’s cancer. He is medically retired and needs to pace himself as he gets very tired. We live in the countryside and it’s easy to become isolated, but we try to give ourselves time to live separate lives and we’re fortunate to be able to do so. We both try and get away every few weeks for a change of scene. I go up to London and visit art exhibitions and the theatre. It’s liberating! I get a break from the cancer and go back to David refreshed. When he goes away, he can take his positive pants off and have a complete rest.
The time we have left
The good news is that David has responded well to treatment so far. After an operation in November 2017 to have part of his lung removed, David has continued to take various drugs which have kept him stable and prevented the tumours from spreading. I am grateful for this. I am grateful for the time we have left.