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Interview 32

Age at interview: 69
Age at diagnosis: 66
Brief Outline: Diagnosed with breast cancer late in 2007. He had a mastectomy early in 2008, followed by radiotherapy, multiple courses of chemotherapy, and Herceptin.
Background: Interview 32 is a retired rubber process worker. He is married and has 2 surviving adult children and a daughter who died in her early 30s.

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 In late 2007 Interview 32 found a lump whilst he was washing, then got ready to go out and forgot about it until he was having another shower. He looked in the mirror and noticed that the nipple was inverted so the following day he went to the doctor who referred him to hospital and his cancer was diagnosed. He had a mastectomy in January 2008, followed by radiotherapy and two or three different courses of chemotherapy, and Herceptin. In early 2011 when he was interviewed he had developed small red lumps over this chest and towards his back which his doctor had described as ‘breast cancer in the skin’.

During his first course of chemotherapy, he thought that he was lucky not to have had as many side effects as other people that he had seen who had had sickness, diarrheoa and mouth ulcers. He did find himself getting very tired though. His later chemotherapy affected him more, and his platelets went down and he picked up an infection which pulled him down. Recently the treatment and a chest infection has left him feeling very tired and breathless which he finds frustrating because he has been unable to do the things that he wanted to do, like going for a walk or tending to his garden. In the past he had walked for miles, but now he gets annoyed because he gets puffed out when walking to the nearby shops. 
He had a reaction whilst his second dose of Herceptin was being administered which made the doctors stop the treatment until he had had a sleep and his body had settled. He then carried on with the treatment.
He has ongoing lymphadeoma and the hospital have tried different ways of strapping his arm to try to control it. Sometimes when he was having his Herceptin the staff found it difficult to find a vein, and he couldn’t have any injections into his affected side. One time a doctor used a vein in his leg when they couldn’t get a needle into the veins in his arm
He had first heard about breast cancer in men a long time before in an article in the Reader’s Digest. He didn’t think it would be something that he would get, but when he was diagnosed he thought worrying about it wouldn’t help. His positive attitude was inspired by the example his daughter had set when she had cancer. The way that she had kept going with her life had made him realise that it was important not to give in, or to ‘muck up’ his time by worrying about what was going to happen. Several other family members had also died of cancer, but amongst his older relatives in Ireland it was not something that was openly talked about.
 
 

Interview 32 noticed a lump near his nipple. He went to the doctor as soon as he also noticed...

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Interview 32 noticed a lump near his nipple. He went to the doctor as soon as he also noticed...

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So go right back to the beginning and tell me how you first suspected there might have been a problem?

 
I didn’t suspect there was a problem. I was just having a shower on the Monday and I was rushing out, I was going out so, and I felt, and, I was just washing “Oh, I think there’s a lump there” and then I got ready, got out, oh, and everything was fine, completely forgot about it until the, I was having another shower on the Thursday. And I thought “hang on that’s a lump there” and then I looked in the mirror and then I knew there was something wrong because my nipple had gone in, and then I went the following day to see a doctor and then they, it was very fast he must have twig… my doctor must have realised when he sit and said ‘ oh, I want you to see a consultant’ and I went to see Mr [name], I think it’s the one in [place], and they did tests on me and then I think they couldn’t see me over Christmas, saw me in about the third of January, about the fifteenth of January I had my first operation.
 
So, when you very first noticed it, you went… so you noticed it on the Monday, and then again on the Thursday?
 
Aye, I was rushing, I felt it was on the breast, I felt like a lump on the breast near the nipple and I didn’t really look at it at all, then I got more time, I was... in the shower and all, I was in the shower going to have a wash, and I thought the lump didn’t, I didn’t… my imagination, didn’t seem to be as big as the other time. Then I went to look at it and then I got a shock, the nipple had gone inwards.
 
And that was the first time you’d noticed that?
 
That was the first time I noticed that, and then I...
 
So you went straight to the doctor?
 
I went straight to the doctor and the doctor referred me to see the consultant in and he, unfortunately he was so busy he couldn’t see me over, because it was near Christmas. He couldn’t see me over Christmas, saw me I think was the third of January, and about the fifteenth of January I was in hospital and the sixteenth I had the operation.
 

Interview 32 became very tired and down as his chemotherapy progressed. They adjusted his dose...

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Interview 32 became very tired and down as his chemotherapy progressed. They adjusted his dose...

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The first, as I said the first chemo I was on, it wasn’t as strong as the… the first one I was on, if I got a bit tired I’d go to bed and have a bit, go to bed, you know, I might get up at seven and go to bed at ten and have two or three hours rest, get up I could do the garden, but the other ones, no, I was always tired. I couldn’t, I could start but I’d have to leave everything there and then for the day and so... And of course the next one again was stronger again, this last one, I feel a lot tireder now. I’m alright now I’ve had a, came in, had a bit of a lie down, sort of thing, so I’m alright now. When I - I’m alright when I’m sitting’ down or that.

 
It’s just when you’re doing anything quite physical?
 
Yeah, or if I stand up, I can feel it now, I notice it,
 
You said that the first time you had chemo you didn’t find it too bad?
 
No well… it was...
 
You said it wasn’t too tiring.
 
I don’t know how strong, but the first one, they told me, gets, like, I knew about getting sick, I knew from my daughter. And she said ‘always keep taking the tablets, don’t wait till your sick’ and you do that, you know. So, little things like that. I, I took the tablet, I wasn’t sick. The only thing - tiredness mostly, and, not sick, but your stomach was a little bit, you had to be careful, you know. Other people I was with, they were sick, and diarrhoea and everything… I was… and mouth ulcers.
 
The only side effects, there was this terrible, the tiredness seemed to get worse y’know? And of course the time when my platelets went down, the following Christmas they went down very low, I was down very low. They had to take me in, and this Christmas. I don’t blame the chemo, I think it’s because I got, just when in the middle on the chemo they increased it from a… was it, a hundred and thirty up to a hundred and seventy. And I think , I think because, just after getting it I got this bit of a… picked up a cold, and it pulled me down, and they had to re… had to put me back to the hundred and thirty, and I don't know if that interfered, because I thought we were doing quite well with it. I thought I was beating the cancer, I was hoping to keep in the one hundred and seventy, but they thought it was too much for me you know. And then a while after, she made the decision that, didn’t give me the last one, but it seemed to be the same thing. Once I start on the chemo, it’s attacking the cancer and the cancer seems to be going. When I get to the halfway start its like if my body has got used to it. 
 

Interview 32 describes getting an immediate reaction to one treatment.

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Interview 32 describes getting an immediate reaction to one treatment.

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One of the chemos I did have a bit of a, I was in the mid… was it, they said, ‘oh it’s usually the first day,’ but I’ve got to be awkward again, the second day just they started giving it to me, and, and I thought it some, like it, something happened my knees, and then I felt all funny, they had to stop that, they give me, they gave me some other injection or something, they called the doctor, was called to me.

 
But they said I had to be awkward again, the first any side effects where I gave them a big fright, everything, I took it all great the first day, but the second day, then, I was, it was starting off. I think a half hour… and they had to stop it altogether and they gave me something else, and I dozed off for a while, and then when I came back I felt my old self again. I said, “Go ahead then,” and they gave it to me, sort of thing, you know. And I was, that was the only time I had any side effects.
 
Yeah. And so they were immediate side effects then?
 
Yeah it was just… that sec... it was just, like, it was, like, a dog was biting my knees, or scratching, something was scratching my knees, then I felt all, up in my legs, and I felt a bit funny and I said, “I feel a bit queer” like if some, and they said, “alright, stop,” and then they got a doctor and he said, “get me something else,” I think to calm me down, I don’t know what it was, I know I went to sleep for it, when I came up I felt great!
 
Yeah, oh well that’s good.
 
And eh, I don’t know, the sleep helped me, but anyway after that, I was able to have about quarter an hour afterwards, and they had no more trouble then, from then on.
 
So they carried on with the treatment the same day?
 
Carried on with the treatment, yeah. The same morning.
 
The same morning after you’d had the, yeah… And you were fine?
 
Yeah, I didn’t, I had no – I said, the only side effects I had it’s like, when they first gave me the chemo it seems to be helping my cancer then right in the middle of it, “oh it’s not working anymore,” so…but, as I said, I felt that I got off lightly compared to some of those people with their sores in their mouth and their...
 
Yeah, they can be horrible can’t they?
 
And they, some of them get their hands sore, their feet, but thank God… I’ve been very lucky.
 
So you managed to, you know, escape all those side effects?
 
All the side effects, the only side effect I had was getting tired. But then again I just… go to bed for like two hours, three hours, whatever, between two and four hours, you know, then I would be alright you know? And then I, well look, I haven’t been doing anything. I haven’t been doing anything. I used to walk miles a lot… I’m not walking up, I’m getting annoyed now, ‘cos walking up to the shop up there and back, I’m getting a bit puffed, sometimes puffed out.
 

Interview 32 had read an article in the Reader's Digest which described breast cancer in men. His...

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Interview 32 had read an article in the Reader's Digest which described breast cancer in men. His...

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So when you first found out that you had breast cancer, was, and when you first went to see the doctor, had you known that it was a possibility that a man could get breast cancer?

 
Oh, yes, yes. I’d read about a year, I knew it a long time, I read it, think it’s in the Readers Digest years ago about it. I think that the first time I knew you could have it was a chap in America had it, y’know?
 
Right, so was that on your mind at all when you found, when you saw the, you know, the little lumps that you found, and then the nipple, was that what came to mind or…?
 
No, I thought well, It’s possible it could be, there’s no use worrying about it, if you’ve got it, you’ve got it, get on, well I think my daughter, her example made me, whereas I didn’t feel sorry for myself, I thought the idea was that I thought there’s a good possibility that you’ve got it, well you’ve got it, get on with it and whatever the doctors tell you to do, you do it, and whatever operations, whatever.
 
Sometimes you know, people have talked about stuff they’d seen on, you mentioned earlier that you’d first heard about male breast cancer from reading something in the Readers Digest?
 
Oh that was…
 
Is that a good long time ago or?
 
Oh, goodness, I was over, I was well over fift,… come near twenty years or more, it was a long, long time ago. I knew about it from that, then. Because I remember reading the article saying a chap that got it, but it said it was rare, but it wasn’t uncommon for men to have breast cancer, you know. I did know about it you know. But I didn’t think I was going to get it myself, no.
 
No, I’ll bet you didn’t. And have you seen much about it, you know, in the news and so on since then or…?
 
No not really, now and again. 
 

Interview 32 described how his lymphoedema was treated very carefully when it worsened during his...

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So have you had the lymphoedema on and off since you had the surgery then? Was it one of those things?

 
No, it came on… it came all of a sudden. No, no, this was in the second run, the second. No it didn’t come a su… it came in the second, when I was having the second chemo. It came, we thought, “we’re alright,” it wasn’t, it was just, “oh it’s only a little bit of swelling” but then a… for quite a few months then all of a sudden it just took off and got... they’re having a job, they hadn’t been packing it too much because they didn’t want to go down every day like they did before, because I was on chemo, and they were afraid that if they, they might disperse the cancer cells round my body if, that’s why this, they’re only doing it just a little bit now, whereas before they had it, as I said, I went down for eleven days, every day I went down for packing it up, more than that, …
 
Yeah.
 
You know, trying all, but they stopped. When I went the last time, when it was very big, they said, “we’d like to wrap it, but we won’t do that, because we might displace the cancer cells,” and they just keep now trying out, trying all these different gloves and things, there’s like a whole crowd of them out there. I’ve got more bandages here now than in the hospital! (laughs)
 
So they’ve obviously done a very expert job on that, impressive how they’ve wrapped it all round your fingers as well as...
 
Yeah, we’ll they gave me another, they’ve got, there’s a new glove and one glove it’s one hundred and ninety pounds she’s told us today, they’re going to try that, just when I’m finished in the evenings put it on, ‘cos there’s new ones sort of thing you know.
 
Oh that’s good, well that’s good. So that’s easier just...
 
Cos it seemed to work with it... My wife and I – ‘cos I was looking… but they, they put it on for a little bit, and she left it on a bit, but when they took if off my wife said she could see on my hand here it had gone a bit flatter one corner, so...
 
Aw, that sounds great then.
 
So I’m hoping that I’ll wear the stocking thing for down in the night, then, I’ll wear that in the house, so I’m hoping they they’ll get it down for us you know.
 
Yeah, and then hopefully you won’t need to wear anything in between times, then, is that the plan?
 
Yes, that’s it.
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