“Mammogram”, Not a Word a Man Expects to Hear


Today has built in stressors all of its own – I don’t need to create or add any more

malemammogramThat word, “mammogram”, is definitely not a word a grown man expects to hear about his own health. The word conjures up all kinds of painful images for women and the men in their lives, especially as it pertains to the possibility of a cancer diagnosis. No man is ready to hear that word spoken to himself by his physician or the specialist who is requesting that you have a mammogram done to either confirm or diagnose a health concern.

Today at 1:45 pm I will go to one of our local hospitals here in Kitchener, and undergo a mammogram and my third ultrasound in the last month.

The journey thus far

imageBack in April, this journey began with what my GP thought was an ingrown hair on my right pec, which had become an abscess, or so we thought.  We followed the prescribed process for an abscess. I had a ten day run of antibiotics which really did not do much. In the middle of May I saw my GP again, after a couple of visits the previous two weeks to the walk in clinic, and he said he would refer me to a surgeon, to do an incision and drain the abscess. It all sounded so straight forward and no big deal.  I would be given a local anesthetic and cut open, drained, then sutured back up and have a nice little scar and a great little store for my friends. But that simplicity and ease was not to be my journey.

incisionanddrainageI finally got to see the surgeon in August. By this time you could see a change from the original size of a dime to that of a silver dollar and slight swelling in the area. The surgeon ordered an ultrasound and noticed a hematoma and what looked like multiple abscesses side by each. Apparently this can happen with abscesses, they can have friends come and tag along and have a party together [notice feeble attempt at humor 😉 ]. So the surgeon decided to cut me open, and try to drain the area.  There was some blood but not much drainage.  He decided to leave an open would and have it packed and unpacked daily, to see if it would drain little by little.  Everyone was hopeful. So I got booked for daily dressing changes that I worked around my life and work schedule, either in the early mornings or late afternoons after work at the office.  This went well for less than a week.

grand-river-hospitalDuring the last week of August the nurse at the clinic said that I should go to Emerge. I went on the 28th of August and they ended up looking at it and set up an appointment for a mammogram and ultrasound and sent a report to my GP. Up to this point both my GP and the surgeon had been on holidays and I was waiting for them to get back so I could see one of them or both of them.  The nurses at the clinic were growing concerned because there was a lot of bleeding coming from my wound and there was a growth coming out of it that at first was not that large, but was growing larger by the day. You could clearly see changes in its mass and size.  So I continued with the daily dressing changes, right on through the weekend and into the week.  That first week of September was the week both doctors were supposed to be back.  The emergency physician could only book me for the earliest mammogram on the 16th of September. So I felt like I was stuck on a treadmill.

LabourDayThe day after Labour Day last week, the nurse at the clinic asked me to go to Emerge after the dressing change.  I contacted my office and let them know I was going to the hospital and that I would give them an update later in the day.  That day was incredibly long.  I had my dressing change at 7:30 am, and went to the hospital after and my daughter drove me there after 9 am.  She remained with me all day until the supper hour.  My wife Lori came from work and remained with me from around 5:30 pm to 8 pm. During that time span I saw two emergency physicians and both of them were great. The senior member even got a dermatology book to show me what was happening on my chest, not that I need a book with pictures to show me what was going on, when I felt I was already an extra on the set of Alien the movie, you know, the dude with the growth coming out of his chest [another feeble attempt at humor J ].  He was great though and providing information and following up with the first surgeon, who now was not only back from holiday, but was in the hospital operating theatre doing surgery at this very moment, and that he was pressing him to get back to him about my situation.  So there was a lot more waiting going on than I anticipated, but fortunately for me, I had my iPad with me with some classic movies on it, so I watched Tyrone Power and a couple of other black and white movies while waiting to see the surgeon, and read some digital books as well, a little bit of history, a little of theology, a little bit of philosophy, and a little bit Civil War history.  I did a little bit of meditation in between, and has some wonderful conversations with my eldest daughter Caitlin who spent much of her time off that day with me, being there for me. He love and friendship blessed me beyond measure. She is an amazing young woman.

ultrasoundIn the mid afternoon that day, I was taken to have an ultrasound. That was quite the experience. Cold gel on top of a growing external growth that is extra sensitive to touch, heat and cold. Not a thrill to be sure. I walked all the way down to the MRI, Ultrasound area of the hospital.  I had to wait close to 25 minutes for my turn. You could feel the anxiety coming off the people sitting there waiting their turns.  I  can understand, I was in the cue waiting for my own turn.  Again, I turned to meditation, and started to pray the Jesus Prayer in silence, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, be merciful to me a sinner.” I synced my prayer to my breathing, and it kind of just happens on its own, and peace and calm came over me and no stress at all. It was an amazing feeling.  No matter the situation I find myself in, I find the Jesus Prayer centres my spirit with God and God’s peace comes over me, like I am standing under a waterfall. Swoosh! All that love and grace just comes tumbling down all over me and calms me and gives me a sublime state of being. Around 4 pm, they came and got me again, to go down to X-ray around the corner from Emerge. So off I went again, and I waited around ten minutes and got two X-rays taken of my chest, a frontal and a profile. The only thing missing was my prisoner mug shot number [another feeble attempt at humor – J]

The emergency physician got hold of the surgeon who came down to see me, and that surgeon got hold of the on call surgeon, who was actually the surgeon my GP wanted me to see anyway.  This rarely happens. There was this prophetic convergence, where both surgeons my GP wanted to address my issues, were in the hospital at the same time and available to come to my bed to see me.  You could not have timed that any better.  They both confirmed what they thought this was and described that there will be a need for a biopsy, and that they would review the X-rays when they get notified and they would get back to me later. So off they went.

Caitlin left and a half hour later, at 5:30 pm Lori got to my area at Emerge. It was so good to see my lovely darling there sitting with me. She has been a constant source of comfort and help the last few months.  Her presence and her love and grace has been the richest of blessings in my life. My love for her just grows and grows. I am so thankful to God for the woman He graced my life with.

Lori and I were left alone until roughly 7:45 pm when the general surgeon came back to confirm that he was setting up an urgent request for a biopsy and that we would go ahead with the mammogram (set for this afternoon) and ultrasound and determine our course of action after the reports come in.

So this leads us up to today

todoToday is part of that growing development that saga that began in the middle of April.  Today I face a mammogram and ultrasound. The ultrasound will not be an issue.  I have had two of these already. It is a chilling, as in cold, experience when the tissue affected is extra sensitive to touch, heat or cold.  However, the mammogram is a whole other matter.  Lori and I had asked the surgeon if an MRI would be better, but he said to go with the mammogram. We mentioned the issue of the pressure on the pec/breast, and that the external growth may burst under pressure and cause, quite literally a bloody mess and a lot of physical pain and discomfort. He said that we should go with it, and so we shall.

male-breast-cancerThe issue before me is the possibility of “male breast cancer”.  It sounds odd, doesn’t it? It sure does for me. There is no history of breast cancer in my family background. There is a history of lung cancer on both sides on my side of the family, as well as heart disease, but no breast cancer. So that alone is rare. To be a male and to deal with breast cancer is even more rare.

*** [The following is quoted directly from the Canadian Cancer Society website.] ***

Less than 1% of all breast cancers occur in men.  It is estimated that 210 new cases of breast cancer in men will be diagnosed in Canada in 2014, and that 60 men will die from the disease.

While breast cancer in men is similar to the disease in women, there are some differences. For the most part, breast cancer in men is treated like breast cancer in women after menopause (when the ovaries stop producing estrogen).

Any substance or condition that increases cancer risk is referred to as a risk factor. There isn’t a known, single cause of breast cancer in men. Most cancers are the result of many risk factors. However, some men with breast cancer do not have any identifiable risk factors.

The risk of a man developing breast cancer increases with age. Most men diagnosed with the disease are over the age of 60.

The following factors increase the risk of breast cancer in men.

Men who have a close relative (male or female) diagnosed with breast cancer have a greater risk of developing the disease. The risk increases with the number of relatives diagnosed.

Genetic mutations are changes to a gene, which can increase the risk of developing cancer. Inherited gene mutations are passed on from a parent to a child. Only a small portion of breast cancer in men is caused by inheriting a gene mutation.

  • Men who have a BRCA2 gene mutation are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
    • Mutations in the BRCA1 gene also increase risk, though it is not as high as with the BRCA2 gene mutation.
  • Men who carry these gene mutations may pass them along to their children. Children of men with breast cancer are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Klinefelter syndrome An inherited sex chromosome disorder in which men have at least one extra X chromosome. Signs include small testicles, enlarged breasts and lack of facial and body hair. is a very rare inherited (genetic) disorder. Men with this disorder have lower levels of androgens and higher levels of estrogen, which are associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Previous exposure to radiation, especially to the chest, increases the risk of breast cancer in men.

Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver. It occurs when scar tissue replaces healthy tissue in the liver. Hormones are carried into the blood by proteins made by the liver. A liver damaged by cirrhosis causes high estrogen levels and low androgen levels in the body, which are associated with a greater risk of developing breast cancer.

The following factors have some association with breast cancer in men, but there is not enough evidence to say they are known risk factors. Further study is needed to clarify the role of these factors for breast cancer in men.

  • gynecomastia (enlarged male breasts)
    • Men with gynecomastia may have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, although whether or not this is a risk factor is unclear. Abnormal estrogen or androgen levels are often associated with gynecomastia.
  • being obese
    • Obesity increases the risk of breast cancer in women, and may increase the risk of breast cancer in men. Fat cells in the body convert androgens into estrogen, so men with more fat cells have higher levels of estrogen in their body.
  • drinking alcohol
    • Alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer in women. It may also increase the risk in men because of the effect it has on the liver, which may affect the level of estrogen in the body.
  • estrogen treatment
    • Men with prostate cancer may be treated with estrogen, which can slightly increase the risk of developing breast cancer. However, the risk is small when compared to the benefit of the treatment.
    • Men taking estrogens during a sex change procedure may also have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
  • taking finasteride (Proscar or Propecia)
    • Finasteride is a drug used to treat an enlarged prostate (Proscar) or male pattern hair loss (Propecia). A recent study suggested that there may be a very small increase of breast cancer in men who took this drug.
  • problems with the testicles
    • Some studies have suggested that the risk of breast cancer is increased in men who have:
      • an undescended testicle (cryptorchidism)
      • had one or both testicles removed (orchiectomy)
      • had mumps as an adult
  • occupational exposure
    • Some research studies suggest that men who work in hot environments may be at an increased risk of breast cancer. High temperatures in the following types of environments may affect the testicles and hormone levels:
      • steel mills
      • blast furnaces
      • rolling mills
    • Other studies have shown a link between breast cancer in men and exposures to gas and exhaust fumes.

sign is something that can be observed and recognized by a doctor or healthcare professional (for example, a rash). A symptom is something that only the person experiencing it can feel and know (for example, pain or tiredness).

Most breast problems are not breast cancer. The signs and symptoms of breast cancer can also be caused by other health conditions. It is important to have any unusual symptoms checked by a doctor.

  • a hard, painless lump in the breast – most common sign
    • in men, the lump is often around or under the nipple
  • a lump in the armpit
  • breast swelling or tenderness
  • changes to the skin
    • redness
    • scaling
    • puckering or dimpling
    • itching
  • changes to the nipple
    • discharge
    • crusting or ulcers
    • nipples that suddenly point inward (inverted)

Many men do not report symptoms of breast cancer to their doctors. This may be because they are not aware that men can get breast cancer or they are embarrassed. For this reason, men are often diagnosed at a later stage than women. Men should know what is normal for their breasts and report any changes to a doctor.
Diagnosis is the process of finding the cause of a health problem. Diagnostic tests will be done if the signs and symptoms of breast cancer are present or if the doctor suspects breast cancer. Many of the same tests used to initially diagnose cancer are used to determine the stage (how far the cancer has progressed). The doctor may also order other tests to check a man’s general health and to help plan treatment. Tests may include the following.

* * * [End of the page from the cancer website.] *  * *

So here I am now, waiting until 1:45 pm today to get this mammogram.

happiness-is-a-by-product-of-a-life-well-livedI am at peace today. I am at peace. My wife is going to be with me through this time. I am glad to have her by my side.  My daughters and their men, my son-in-law and future son-in-law have been equally supportive of me.  I am so thankful for my family.  My friends around the world have been supportive and covering me in prayer through Facebook and Twitter.  My employer has been very supportive of me. My church family and friends are equally supportive.  Today, for me, I will really need that prayer covering.  I know God is here with me in this journey.  I am not alone.  I am not abandoned. He is present with me in my suffering.

Our family journey with cancer

carraghbuickI want to encourage you. No matter who you are or what you are facing, God cares for you. He really really cares for you.  He is in the midst of your sorrow, disappointment and pain.  I have gone through the cancer journey once before, previously with my own daughter, Carragh who suffered for over seven years with ALL Leukemia and she passed and crossed over to the other side of the Jordan into the presence of Christ four days prior to Christmas 1993.  We went through this journey with Carragh as a family.  Cancer is a family disease and it affects the whole family.  We became a close knit family through that journey with Carragh.  Our other children, Caitlin and Erinn became more and more important to us after Carragh died and we devoted our lives to our children, and Lori ended up homeschooling them all through primary and high school, and they grew to become beautiful brilliant young women, and blessed with wonderful men who have come into their lives today.  I am a man at peace, knowing that my children are good responsible people, who have loving mates in their lives, and who are well equipped to handle all the curve balls that life throws at them. They have proven their mettle and they have not been found wanting.  They are all made of stern material, and that speaks well for them as people.  I am at peace, that as life continues they will be successful at all they attempt to do, and if they do not attain their goal the first time, they will not give up and they will keep pursuing their dreams and their heart desire that God has put in their hearts.

samlori2015I have been so blessed to have journeyed this life with my life partner, my lover, my wife, my best friend, Lori. No spouse ever dreams of becoming a widower or a widow.  We even spoke of that issue this morning on my way to work.  Lori shared how much she loved me and doesn’t want to be a widow and how this has been her one concern.  I shared that I felt the same when she battled skin cancer for the second time, and also had a hysterectomy due to fibroids in her womb. While at a human level the thought of separation from the most important person in your life is very real, it is good to talk about it, and process it through.

Living life to the glory of God

quote-Lucius-Annaeus-Seneca-life-if-well-lived-is-long-enough-54716At the end of the day, I have had a wonderful life with my wife Lori, my children  Carragh, Caitlin, Erinn, Alex and Stephen. I have been blessed beyond measure or description.  I do not know where this journey goes from today. I cling to God and my faith is resolute in the goodness of God and His provision for me and for my family, and that His plans for me are for my good, and for my wellness, to prosper me in all ways and to bless me all the days of my life.  Physical life here in the present is a wonderful gift that I cherish, but this life is not the final expression of life.  There is life beyond measure that is beyond the grave. I can identify with Paul, the apostle who wrote most of the New Testament letters.  He spoke of his life in this way.  He  said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).  If I live, I will devote myself just as I have to live my life to the glory of God and the extension of His Kingdom on the earth.  Every day I am an agent of His Kingdom in the earth, in all I do, say, and engage in, be it at work, at play, at rest, with family, or whatever endeavor. I do it all to the glory of God. If I die, and eventually I will die, it matters not how I die, but if I die, my death is not the end.  Death is but a door that leads to the other side. The river Jordan, in Israel, is used as a biblical metaphor to speak of passing from this physical life to life everlasting, or eternal life, and when we say, we are “crossing over the Jordan”, we are simply stating we are passing from what is earthly and present, into the eternal promises of God fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and as we cross the veil of death, death becomes our friend, not our foe, and when we cross, we see Jesus face to face, just as He is, and see all those we have loved, who have crossed to that side before us.  It becomes the best family reunion any of us can hope for or imagine. So while I do not want to die just yet, I am ready for whatever I face. In life or in death, I am secure in Jesus Christ. He is my hope.  He is your hope.

First things first.

phil121So first we get this mammogram done. Then we get the biopsy.  Then we get the readings seven to ten days later.  Then the physicians will consult and make a plan to tackle what they find.  It may be benign and a straight forward surgery to remove the mass.  It may be cancerous, and I will need chemo and radiation to reduce the growth so it can be surgically removed.  This is the agony of the wait for a patient.

All I know and care about, is that I am not alone. I am not facing this alone. God is with me and so are my wife, children, family and friends. I am rich and blessed beyond measure.

May the peace of Christ be yours today.  And if I come across your mind, say a prayer for me.  You have my thanks.

Peace.

~ Sam

LINKS:

http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/breast/breast-cancer/breast-cancer-in-men/?region=on

Advertisements

About Sam Buick

A lover and disciple of Jesus Christ. Married to my best friend, Lori-Anne. Father to 3 incredible daughters, Carragh, Caitlin and Erinn, and sons-in-law Alex, and Stephen Davis. An avid reader, a Droid user, a Mac addict, a lover of footy ball and football (there is a difference), and hockey. Once a soldier. Once a youth worker. Once an ordained minister. Once a claims adjuster. Once a charismatic, now a cessationist. Once a just war advocate, now a pacifist. A disciple of Christ, 5 point classical Calvinist. There is only one way to God, and that is through Jesus Christ alone.
This entry was posted in Personal and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s