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Semper Fi: Always Faithful
For the first thirty-nine years of my life Camp Lejeune was nothing more to me than a faded name printed on my birth certificate. We are a Marine family. My father is a Naval Academy Graduate and served in the Marine Corps as an officer. My grandfather retired in 1961 as a major in the Marine Corps.
This all changed in April of 2007 after my wife gave me a hug before bed one night. As she did, her hand came across a curious bump situated above my right nipple. There was no pain but if felt very odd. At first, I dismissed the bump as a cyst that would go away, but after a few weeks it persisted. My wife then insisted that I go see our family doctor. As I sat in the waiting room waiting for my doctor I was not worried. The idea of cancer never entered my mind. Why should it? I do not drink, I do not smoke, nor have I ever abused drugs. I thought I was a healthy 39-year-old man. Doctor Perry came into the room and looked me over. He advised that he wanted me to have a mammogram. I paused and asked him to repeat his request as a tinge of fear spread down my spine. He told me that he was unsure what the bump was and it had best be safe to have it checked. I felt reassured and made the appointment for the following week.
I arrived at the mammography unit by myself just before work on a Friday morning. I waited as several women were called back for their mammograms. It was nearly an hour before they called me. When I entered the mammography unit, everything was decked in pink and pastels. The nurse handed me a smock covered with flower embroidery and I smiled as I said it was not necessary. The mammogram itself took only a few minutes; it was the wait that seemed to stop time. After about 5 more minutes, the nurse re-entered the room and asked if they could take a few more pictures. A cold surge flowed through my body. After 10 more minutes, which seemed like hours, the nurse came back and asked if I would mind waiting for the radiologist to arrive at the office. I found myself beginning to breathe shallow with a nervous pace. I was then taken to another room and placed on a table next to a sonogram. I looked up at the screen as the technician ran the wand over my breast. There before me, glowing on the display, was a solid mass with thousands of tiny white speckles. I later learned they were called micro calcifications and are that they are a tell-tale sign of malignant cancer. The radiologist then advised me to see a surgeon for a needle biopsy. It was also at this time that I first heard the term male breast cancer. On the outside I remained calm, but inside full panic ensued. What about my family? My children? Will I be there to see them graduate? Get married? How will they get by without me? I spent every moment with my family that weekend feeling as if I was a dead man walking. The nightmares were horrible.
A few days later,the biopsy was taken and on my eighteenth wedding anniversary,I was officially diagnosed with male breast cancer at the age of 39. My surgery was scheduled for the first week of May. I could not sleep for the next few days as my mind raced. Everyone I have ever known before with cancer, died. I ventured onto the internet and found a few articles about male breast cancer and they all talked about how rare and deadly the disease was for men. My tumor was measured to be 2.5 cm and another hard spot was identified under my right armpit. The surgeon could only tell me that we would only know the extent of the disease once they completed the surgery to remove my right breast. Years before, when I was in college, I had a gun placed to my head during a robbery as another gunman’s pistol whipped the manager of the restaurant where I worked. I was scared then. Now I was terrified.
During the time immediately after my surgery, we were all puzzled by how and why I developed this rare disease. My surgeon, who was a breast cancer expert, said that he had only seen a few cases of the disease in men and that I was the youngest he had seen. The rarity of the disease also attracted a local TV station that did a short piece about me a few weeks after my breast was removed. Thankfully, the cancer remained confined to my breast, but chemotherapy was recommended due to the size of my tumor. We all wondered how and why I was stricken with male breast cancer, especially since there was no history of the disease in my family, male or female.
Looking for answers, we traveled 140 miles to Shands Hospital attached to the University of Florida. They reviewed my case and concurred with my local oncologist’s recommendations with the exception of what type of chemotherapy I should have. More importantly, I was tested for the hereditary breast cancer markers, BRCA 1 and 2. I was worried about my three girls and son and wanted to know if they would face the same monster within. Thankfully the tests were negative and according to the geneticists
Answer by Dardenella at 5:07 AM on Feb. 25, 2012
Answer by robinkane at 8:57 AM on Feb. 25, 2012
Answer by Izsarejman at 11:51 PM on Feb. 25, 2012
Next question overall
Do you give your kids homework over the summer?