Michal Kriz
June 2017

My first thought was that men could not get breast cancer.

I was 33, and working for an IT company, when I felt a pain in my right breast for four months when I exercised, or when I lay on my belly. I finally decided to visit my doctor in April, 2013. She recommended that I visit a specialist surgeon at the breast clinic urgently.

I had a mammogram then a biopsy that was negative because the sample was not taken from the small tumour. A subsequent MRI confirmed that there was a growth. When I received the diagnosis of breast cancer by phone from my doctor, I was shocked. I just sat on the sofa thinking about it, and deciding how to tell my wife. Neither the previous physical examination, nor the subsequent biopsy signalled this diagnosis. I had trouble understanding what he told me, and couldn’t believe it. My first thought was that men could not get breast cancer. I thought that it was bad joke.

It was really difficult to tell my family. My wife and I were young, had lots of plans, and hoped to enjoy our lives in harmony and joy. When I called her, she started to cry and came home immediately to discuss the situation. She supported me in any way she could, right from the beginning, and she was my main motivation to fight the disease.

After an initial operation the pathology showed the cancer as Stage 1, Grade 1, and was ER +, PR -, HER2 – I underwent a mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy and hormone treatment with Tamoxifen. The first series of chemotherapies was really difficult for me. I felt very sick, lost my hair, was really exhausted, and just tried my hardest to survive. I was unable to be strong physically, even though psychologically I had lots of reasons to fight the disease, and my family supported to me.

My cancer returned, three years after my initial treatment, in May, 2016, when I felt a lump near the surgical scar. I underwent another round of chemotherapy and went on three-weekly injections of Herceptin, which are continuing today. The second treatment was easier and not so aggressive, so I didn’t change my lifestyle so much and focused more on myself. I even kept my hair this time.

Luckily, genetic testing for BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 proved to be negative.

I tried to work all the time, partly from home, and partly in the office, or in our client’s offices, from day three after each of the chemotherapies.

My friends and colleagues knew about my disease, but I have to admit that I wanted to be alone at home during the treatment, since I had no desire to meet them. I was glad that I had time for myself and my family and for restoring my health.

The breast cancer diagnosis had a big impact on my life. Lots of things changed, although not as quick as everybody says. Everything needed time and was changing day by day and step by step. I was trying to avoid stress, live more healthily, not dwell on “small problems“, and focus on myself and my family. I know that time and health are very important and can’t be bought at any price.

There is no support system for men with breast cancer in the Czech Republic. It is up to individuals to join social groups or to find the support they need. Since doctors treat just the cancer, not any psychological issues, I met the director of the Czech Breast Cancer Association and she recommended I meet with patients from a support group for young female breast cancer patients. Both of these non-profit organisations really helped me get my life back to normal after my two rounds of treatment. Many of the people I met are now my friends.

I would like people to know that breast cancer is not just a women’s disease, but that men can also get it. And that a diagnosis is really difficult for those of us who get it. There was no information about men and breast cancer in 2013, when I was diagnosed for the first time, and that is why I decided to start my own group called “I muzi maji prsa“ (men can get breast cancer too). I am trying to educate the Czech people about this fact and spread the word.

Finally, everything is in our mind, so we must have the right attitude and stay strong. Breast cancer is not always fatal, and men can live a normal life after treatment for this disease. Now I try to live in the here and now and enjoy every minute of my day.