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Tim - Interview 94

Age at interview: 73
Age at diagnosis: 60
Brief Outline: Tim was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996. He had a mastectomy, radiotherapy and tamoxifen for 7 years. The radiotherapy caused some burning of the skin and he developed a wound infection that cleared with antibiotics.
Background: Tim is a retired oil company executive. He is married and has 2 adult children. Ethnic Background: White British (English).

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Tim first noticed his nipple becoming painful and sensitive. The nipple then became inverted which he thought may be due to an infection and he applied Savlon cream to it. His wife persuaded him to show it to her brother who is a doctor. He advised him to see his own GP as soon as possible. He realised that there might be something seriously wrong when he was referred to the consultant.
 
When he first had problems with his nipple he had no idea men could develop breast cancer. He was shocked when the specialist telephoned and told him he had breast cancer. He wanted to get on with treatment and deal with it head on. He told his daughter and son immediately and friends as he saw them. He felt they should know, but did not want to make a big deal out of it. Most people were shocked but very supportive when they found out. 
 
He had a mastectomy, then radiotherapy. He took tamoxifen for about 7 years but stopped after he had a thrombosis following a hip operation. Whilst he was taking tamoxifen he experienced some loss of sexual drive but this resolved when he stopped taking tamoxifen. When he felt rather on his own after his active phase of treatment, he looked into some complementary therapies. He became a reiki practitioner at this time and still uses this sometimes.
 
He cannot recall being given any written information and never met a breast care nurse, although he had a very good relationship with his surgeon. His wife was very supportive, but he also had other support networks including a men’s group that use drumming, meditation and rituals to work through issues. He has changed his lifestyle, embracing alternative therapies to make his life more meaningful. He views his body as a tool that enables him to live his life, doing the things he wants to. 
 
Since his diagnosis he has worked as a volunteer and as a fundraiser with the charity Breast Cancer Care, speaking about his experiences to raise awareness of men with breast cancer. 
  
 

Tim found it depressing that taking tamoxifen for his breast cancer reduced his sex drive; things...

Tim found it depressing that taking tamoxifen for his breast cancer reduced his sex drive; things...

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You just mentioned about the sexual side that tamoxifen took away from your relationship with your wife, how was your relationship affected by that?
 
Oh yes, I mean it does inhibit you, it removes your sex drive, almost completely. Which was something that, it probably bothered me a bit more than her in a way. I think men generally, I mean the way we’re constructed, you’ve only got to go to the park and watch the stags, the way we’re constructed is, we would like to have more than may be available to us.
 
I mean when I see a lovely girl walking along I get the same sort of feeling. But as you might say, in the undergrowth nothing stirs. So it was a bit depressing. But as soon as one stopped the tamoxifen things recovered, I’m glad to say, reasonably well. 
 

Tim and his wife have both had breast cancer; he says that their cancer experiences have made...

Tim and his wife have both had breast cancer; he says that their cancer experiences have made...

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Have there been any other changes in your relationships since your diagnosis?
 
No I mean I think that, one should say that probably we are closer, that we somehow care for each other more. I would say it’s strengthened, particularly since [name of wife] had breast cancer as well. That we both are very close and think about each other a lot, and on the whole take great care of each other. And we have our little spats and we get on each others’ nerves here and there, but I think on the whole we have a very, very positive relationship. And probably that has been helped in a way by, you know, running the gauntlet, you know. It does make you more sensitive and more caring. Yeah. I think that a relationship works if you put more than fifty percent in, so each person should put sixty percent in, it makes a hundred and twenty, you know, that’s nice. It’s not a matter of counting up, I’ve done my share, you do your share, you know, it’s throwing things in all the time that makes it work well, yeah.
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