Today, is day 3 of my recovery and healing journey, I am recounting the journey of the last almost 8 months. It all started in the second week of April. My wife noticed a slight lump as she brushed her hand across my right pec. It was smaller than the tip of my pinky and you had to run your hand across the skin, because you could not see a lump. She remarked “you better get that checked out.” I promised her I would.
I tried to reach my family physician but it is never easy to get through and like most people, I can’t just keep calling hoping to get through. I was busy with work, so I decided that I would go earlier than normal on my way to the office, and go early and go to the walk in clinic that I frequent when I cannot see my GP. I went to the walk in clinic and saw the physician who said that it looked to be an ingrown hair. The physician explained to me that it could become an abscess and that they usually pop by themselves and sometimes they need human assistance to cut and drain the area. But first he wanted me to take antibiotics for ten days and see what change there is. He also wanted me to apply warm compresses to the area. So I did as he instructed and I kept trying to get to my GP.
By the time I got through to my GP is was the middle of the month of May. He looked at it, and again I was explained that this looked like an abscess. We went over it all again, and this time he said, if there were no changes in several weeks, then we would need to have me referred to a surgeon to cut and drain the area.
This is where the Canadian medical system can be slow with all the referrals to specialists and the waiting lists involved. So I was told there was a backlog but that I was on the waiting list and that there were some 500 people ahead of me. The summer was upon us, so Lori and I had planned a camping holiday for our 32 wedding anniversary in June. We went to Rockwood GRCA (Guelph) and had a wonderful holiday together. By this time all I was thinking about was that this thing was nothing more than an abscess. So I was not thinking about it being at all serious.
The month of July came, and still I had not had the referral to the surgeon confirmed. I again went to my GP who noticed it had grown to the size of a quarter, but it was still not really visible to the eye. He sent another referral to the surgeon for me. Again Lori and I went on a camping trip on 31 July to Pinehurst GRCA (Cambridge) and Caitlin and Stephen joined us for a few days there. We carried on as usual waiting for that appointment. This trip was special and very meaningful. Lori and I really enjoyed sharing the holiday with our daughter Caitlin and her fiance Stephen. We hung out together, went to the beach, played cards, sat around the fire, and had nice walks and talks. It was a wonderful time.
Now we were in August, and I finally called the surgeon’s office myself. I was able to get an appointment at the clinic at the hospital for the next week.
I finally saw the surgeon in September, the week before Labour Day. He took an ultrasound and discovered that there was a hematoma and several abscesses clustered together in the area and that it had grown substantially since the quarter size reported by my GP. So he put in some freezing, did an incision and tried to drain the area. There was not much to drain, so he decided to leave an open would that could be packed, unpacked and repacked daily through the CCAC clinic. So I started my daily visits to the CCAC Nursing Clinic in Kitchener. I would go either before work or after work.
The nurses at the clinic took great care of me and for about ten days things appeared to be fine. There was not much draining but they kept doing what they were instructed to do. One of the nurses said that there was a growth coming out of the wound and asked me to go to the hospital and have it checked out. So I went to Grand River Hospital twice within five days. On the first visit they consulted with a surgeon, who said to arrange for a mammogram and biopsy. So it got booked at St. Mary’s Hospital. They wanted me to have a mammogram. But I had to wait 11 days for that appointment. The day for that appointment came on 17 September, and we went there and the radiologist said he could not do a mammogram on the chest for it would damage the tissues. So we did not have it done.
On the second visit in the second week of September, I went to Grand River Hospital I saw an emergency physician who kept me there all day. He wanted to get more direction and more help for me and asked me to stay so he could get the on call surgeon to come down and see me. He also arranged for me to get a chest X-ray and another Ultrasound. My daughter Caitlin was with me. She had driven me in her car and stayed with me all morning and afternoon, until Lori got home from her work. I saw both the plastic surgeon who had done the original incision and the on call surgeon, who happened to be the general surgeon that my GP was in the midst of referring me to. So I had all three physicians in the loop.
They examined the wound, and they waited for the X-ray and ultrasound. Around 8 pm, and I had been at the hospital since just around 9:30 am that day, the surgeon came to see my wife Lori and I. He said I needed to have a biopsy to confirm a diagnosis, so that appointment was made for the Breast Clinic at Freeport, an out patient treatment facility and another campus of Grand River Hospital. So that was booked for 9 days away.
I went to Freeport on 25 September, Lori was there with me, and here I was the only male in the breast clinic. I had an ultrasound guided biopsy done. The results came on 6 October. The surgeon wanted to see me and told me that I had what looked to be MBC (Male Breast Cancer), but that I needed to have a CT scan to be sure. I would need surgery, but they were not sure about radiation or chemo, or if they should wait until after surgery is complete and they can have the pathology report of the tissue, and then set up a follow up protocol to deal with any issues. So I had a CT scan done on the 10 October at Grand River Hospital. The surgeon decided to consult with Dr. Charles Catton from Princess Margaret’s Hospital in Toronto, one of the top five cancer treatment facilities in the world.
Lori and I went to see Dr. Catton on the 26 of October and I took the CT scan images on CD for him to review. He examined me and said that this looked like a soft tissue sarcoma and not breast cancer. So being that there are different treatment protocols for each, he said that I should have the surgery first, and then determine how to proceed.
All this time, the tumor was growing larger and larger outside of the wound and hanging on my chest. Dressing changes became a daily creative challenge for all the nurses that attended me at the CCAC Nursing Clinic.
On the same day that I was visiting Dr. Catton in Toronto, one of my friends from work, Jelena Markovic-Wilson, lost her own battle with cancer. She was 31. She was a new mother with a child less than a year old. I was heart broken. I struggled greatly through this loss, but I became determined to fight. Lori and went to the funeral together, and I embraced Jelena’s mother Nada, who I also worked with, and she really embraced me and told me to fight and beat this thing. I left that funeral chapel more determined than ever to fight, and to live, and to make my life count for God and others. This helped me to refocus and not lose sight of what was at stake.
I had another appointment with the surgeon, who confirmed that on 3 November that I would be having surgery on 18 November at 13:30 hrs. But first I would need another CT scan. So I got the CT scan on 12 November. Everything was set to go and 18 November came and the surgery was a complete success. I have arranged a slide show below that shows the growth progression of the tumor. It is startling to see that this growth was from September to November. It went from the size of a couple of silver dollars to the size of a large grapefruit. And praise God, now it is gone!
Dr. Mohamed Husien and his surgical team at Grand River Hospital were incredible. He did a fantastic job with the radical mastectomy. I am due to have a follow up in a month’s time. We await the biopsy on the tissue removed and are praying for a full healthy recovery.
I would never have made it this far without my relationship and faith in Jesus Christ, the support, prayers and encouragement of my family, Lori, Caitlin, Erinn, Alex and Stephen, and the many members of my extended family, River of Life Fellowship, my church family, and all their ongoing prayer support and encouragement and ministry to Lori and myself. I am also very thankful for my work family, Crawford & Company Contractor Connection and all my team members, and management who have been supportive throughout. You really need strong supports to help you move through the healing and recovery of this kind of experience.
My friends on Facebook and Twitter from around the world have been incredible. So many messages of encouragement, support and prayer. The Body of Christ worldwide and all those who have undertaken to pray for me and for my family. It is truly remarkable.
The healing journey continues.