When Bob Was Diagnosed With Breast Cancer - Part One
Bob and I had been dating for around four years when he felt a lump in his breast. Bob made a doctor’s appointment with his primary physician. He went to his appointment and his primary physician referred him to another doctor.
A missed opportunity
At that appointment, Bob was diagnosed with gynecomastia. Gynecomastia is an abnormal non-cancerous enlargement of one or both breasts in males. Of course, Bob was relieved. Not that he ever thought it was breast cancer, but that a doctor had told him it was nothing serious. Unfortunately, because breast cancer is rare in men he didn’t have a biopsy. The following year Bob was having pain in his clavicle. After another doctor’s appointment and x-rays, it showed that his clavicle was fractured for no apparent reason. Bob had surgery and the biopsy came back benign.
Another fracture, another surgery
Again, in January of 2003, he had pain in his clavicle. Another doctor’s appointment and x-rays showed it was again fractured and Bob was scheduled for surgery. This surgery took place on his forty-first birthday. After the surgery, the surgeon came out of the operating room and told me that he believed Bob had cancer but that it wasn’t the primary sight. Meaning that it had originated somewhere else and spread to the bone. It was after this surgery that they decided to schedule Bob for a biopsy of the lump he had on his left breast.
An unexpected de novo diagnosis
Due to work, I wasn’t able to go with Bob to his appointment. Bob said it was the most painful experience he had ever had. I wanted to support him so I went with him for his mammogram appointment because I thought it may be painful for him, but it wasn’t. Bob was then scheduled for an appointment with an oncologist to be given his diagnosis. Bob and I went to his first appointment and he received the official diagnosis - stage iv male breast cancer - de novo. De novo means you are stage iv from diagnosis, not an earlier stage that processes to stage iv. Bob was told he had twenty-four to thirty months to live and he had just turned forty-one years old.
Stage 4 treatment in the hands of the Tumor Board
The treatment plan was for Bob to have chemotherapy and then radiation. Bob wasn’t going to have a mastectomy. When we went for Bob’s first chemotherapy treatment the oncology pharmacist said “when the tumor board met they had quite the discussion over your treatment plan.” A tumor board is made up of physicians they meet to review and discuss patients with a cancer diagnosis. The tumor board had decided that Bob should have a mastectomy. Because he had already started chemotherapy, he would complete his chemotherapy first and then have a mastectomy. And then finish up with radiation.
Together, but not
Because Bob was told he only had twenty-four to thirty months to live, he broke up with me. He told me I needed to go on with my life because he no longer had a future. While he was dealing with his mortality I was dealing with his diagnosis and a broken heart. Bob was “my person”. We continued to see each other although we weren’t together.
Caregivers, will you help others feel less alone by sharing YOUR story?
Do you find it easy to advocate for yourself?