Roy Collins
October 2017

Roy Collins from Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex

Roy is a retired PCSO (Police Community Support Officer) who worked for Sussex Police. Roy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011.

 “The only incidence of cancer in my family is my mother – who died from ovarian cancer. There are no other cases of breast cancer in our family and I’ve been tested negative for the BRCA gene.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2011. My wife caught me getting out of the shower one day. She is a nurse and noticed that my nipple was inverted. I hadn’t been conscious of it and it certainly didn’t hurt. She sent me packing to the doctor’s and from there I was sent to the hospital for tests including a biopsy.

I was told that I had breast cancer.  My inverted right nipple had been caused by a lump behind the nipple, which my surgeon told me had been growing for probably six months. The lump measured around 6 centimetres by this time and the cancer had spread into my lymph nodes on the right hand side.

I had a full mastectomy on the right hand side and my lymph nodes on that side were removed too. I had 18 weeks of chemotherapy, 3 weeks of radiotherapy and then took Tamoxifen for 5 years. I also had mammograms every 6 months for the first five years, now I’m just having one every three years and don’t have to see my oncologist any more.

I must admit that since 2011 I have had big problems with my libido. It was thought that might be due to the Tamoxifen. However, I have been off that for some years now and my libido has never really recovered. I have a wife who understands, so this hasn’t been an issue for us. The hormones in Tamoxifen haven’t “softened” my natural male aggression but again, I feel I’ve been blessed with Teresa who is my match!

When I was diagnosed, I just turned to the consultant and said ‘if you need to take my breast off, give me radiotherapy, chemo – just do it. Just get rid of it!’ I’ve always been a very, very positive person and it saw me through this cancer nonsense. At no point, did I think I wasn’t going to get through my cancer. I just knew I would beat it. The only difference now is that I have just one boob!
Before I was diagnosed with breast cancer myself, I didn’t know that men could get breast cancer. My wife did know about it, as she’s a nurse. I certainly didn’t check myself. I worked in a profession which is still predominantly male and it never ceases to surprise me how many men don’t know about breast cancer in men. Every chance I get, I tell them why they should have a bit of a ‘grope’ and check themselves. A lot of women also don’t know that men can get breast cancer. I had only met one other man who had had breast cancer until I became involved with Walk the Walk.

My treatment certainly wasn’t a pleasant experience, especially the chemo, but I was very lucky. My wife Teresa is a nurse and was able to give me some treatment at home, including taking bloods, giving me anti sickness drugs and cleaning my picc line, which meant that I didn’t have to have visits from the District Nurse. Teresa and I have always been close, but I will be eternally grateful to her for what she did for me. A couple of years after me, Teresa also had her own breast cancer diagnosis – it was non-invasive breast cancer and was caught early. She had to have radiotherapy, but not a mastectomy.

The Conquest Hospital in Hastings, where I had my surgery and chemotherapy, treated me like a king! I was very fortunate that my surgeon had done several male mastectomies before and that my wife knew a number of the nurses.

It was all a bit of a rollercoaster, but it was just a case of getting through it. My work were great, which really helped and I had six months off during my treatment on full pay. On the negative side, after my treatment I gave a local women’s breast cancer support group a call, as I wanted to find out if I was coping properly. At first, they were interested in my story, but then they told me that the members weren’t keen for me to join, which was very disappointing. I attended an event in Eastbourne organised by Macmillan for women who have had breast cancer. I got some strange looks when I walked into the room with a female work colleague who had also had breast cancer, but it was useful to stay and listen to what they had to say.

Because I had my lymph nodes removed, I do have some ongoing problems with Lymphedema, a build-up of fluid on my right hand side. I have to be very careful to avoid infections. After my mastectomy, I was also very conscious about my scar. That was until we went to Tenerife on holiday and we were on a boat trip. We were encouraged to jump into the sea. A man with just one leg jumped off the boat – I was thinking, all I’ve got to worry about is this scar! So I took my top off and just jumped in too!

I’m more than happy to talk about my diagnosis. I find it easier to be open and honest. As a PCSO there were many times in my job when I was chatting to someone and for some reason, the subject came up.

I never felt the need to appear strong or put on a ‘front’ either. I’m totally fine with who I am. I’ve made quite a lot of ‘noise’ since my diagnosis but there’s still not enough said about MEN getting breast cancer. I’m grateful that Walk the Walk are keen to carry on trying to raise awareness.”