Rodney Fitsimones
December 2019

My breast cancer was discovered in 1981 at the age of 49, and I am now 86 years old. My wife noticed the nipple of my right breast was leaning to the left. There were no other symptoms and I went to family physician who ordered a mammogram. I had a mastectomy, and required no further treatment, except for follow-up examinations. I had faith in my doctor and the surgeon, so I probably experienced the normal amount of anxiety.

I have had genetic testing twice, and that was negative. When I was told I had breast cancer, it felt like an electric shock went through my body. It was something I never wanted to hear. My family was very supportive and reassured me when I was worried. My surgeon called me one evening and talked for twenty minutes to help me. He commented, at one point, that I could step off a curb and be run over by a truck tomorrow, life is fragile.

My work has only been with the Railroad for 45 years being a conductor on Burlington Northern Zephyr passenger train. I don’t think the diagnosis of breast cancer changed my life other than the interruption at the time. My daughter was a high school star basketball player and my doctor let me leave the hospital to attend her game, even though I still had a drain bulb attached. That made a dark time brighter. I have¬†great support from my daughter, whose work is centered around breast cancer research and treatment.

I would like people to know breast cancer in men is real and can occur in any man, and to be aware of symptoms. Men as well as women, should examine and check breasts monthly so that you, too, can have an early diagnosis.