I could say my journey started on D-Day, or diagnosis day. However, my story actually began early in 2020 as I embarked in a new position as a restaurant general manager. I’ve managed restaurants for years before, but I was with a new company with new opportunities. Then in March of 2020 we had to change everything due to the pandemic. Cleaning more thoroughly, masks on everyone, lobby closed, and no contact delivery. Both customers and my employees did not welcome the change well. In June, 2020, I found something strange with my right nipple, it felt odd. I had a physical in June and now with the pandemic, appointments were difficult to get.
As we prepped for another day at the restaurant, I hurt my neck. I herniated my c5 through c7 and needed surgery. I completely forgot about the mystery lump as I dealt with neck surgery, losing my dream job, and recovery for almost a year. Then on April, 2021, I had a physical and lifted my shirt and pointed to my now inverted nipple and said, “I don’t think this is right, do you?”
By then, appointments were still hard to get but we, my wife, and I, navigated through them. I had a mammogram…let me tell you…that was a bizarre experience in itself. They found a 2 cm lump. I then went for a biopsy, then the follow-up. We discussed genetic testing and I agreed to that. And then…the C word….Stage 1b or 2a breast cancer…I went blank, the doctor sounded like a peanuts cartoon adult. My wife took notes and everything for me was a haze.
A right-side mastectomy was in order and chemo after. They took my nipple and left me with a nice scar and, for the time, a drainage tube I referred to as my boob tube. After a month of recovery and a J & J Covid vaccine, it was time to start chemo. I’ve lost 15 pounds so far, my hair is gone, my bone marrow feels like it’s being scraped out with a wire brush, and everything tastes like trash water.
With my last chemo only a few days away, and a 5-year dosing of estrogen blockers ahead, I think about the positives. Yes, so many positives have taken place. I recovered from neck surgery, I was able to land a new job that has an awesome FMLA program, and early detection of breast cancer. Plus, the knowledge that me and my wife of 26 years have the strength and resolve to get through anything. Just 1% of the breast cancer diagnoses are Male, and of that early detection is rare, because, let’s face it, we guys just pass it off as pain from something we lifted. Yup, I’m a lucky guy…ride and never die!