February 2016 – June 2016
It was about February that I had received an indication that something was wrong. I woke up one morning and had trouble speaking. I went to a clinic and was told it was laryngitis. From there I was lined up with an ENT specialist for more testing. I was put under, and a scope showed no indication of cancer. It was not until June, 2016 that my voice began to return, and life seemed to be back to normal.
During these investigations as to why my voice was problematic, I began to notice that my right nipple had hardened and was becoming uncomfortable. My family doctor set me up an appointment with the breast clinic for an ultrasound. They looked it over and said it was gynecomastia and nothing to worry about, but we should monitor it.
My voice returned 4 months later, on my 30th birthday. Ironically, this will also be the date I am done my chemotherapy this coming June 2018. So, it will be almost two years of my journey to the day when I’ve finished treatment.
August 2017 – December 2017
I had to meet with my family doctor to get a prescription filled as I was going to Idaho to climb a mountain. While I was there, I asked if there is anything that should be looked at as he had not followed up with my nipple in over a year. A follow-up appointment was booked to go back to the breast clinic. I went to Idaho and Climbed Mount Borah during the 2017 summer eclipse, not thinking much more of it at the time. I do recall, though, at one point, swinging on a hammock on the side of the mountain, that my nipple was getting really irritated.
I went to the breast clinic when I returned. To my luck, the head of surgery was doing the clinic that day. Dr. Patricia Bryden was the first medical professional to be concerned. She didn’t like what she saw, and said that it felt and sounded much different than what was in the notes from the last physician to give me an exam. This is still something that we disagree with. In my opinion, I was not diagnosed correctly the first time. The doctors however are still standing by their assessment that it was gynecomastia originally, and then turned into cancer.
Dr. Bryden scheduled me for another ultrasound, and a mammogram. She also made me promise that I would not leave the building without having a biopsy completed. This is why I credit her for saving my life, as she seemed to be on top of it the moment we met. Where the other doctors seemed to shrug it off. The diagnostics were completed that day and sent to the lab.
I met with Dr. Bryden to follow up with my test. At this point, I was still under the impression that there was little chance that this was cancer. None-the-less, this was the day that I was told that my biopsy was in fact cancerous. Her original diagnosis was that it was small, likely stage 1A. Final diagnosis was stage 2 (3.5cm). Dr. Bryden had already scheduled my operation before I had arrived for December 13, as she did not want to wait.
For about a week I kept this to myself, thinking that somehow I might be able to get through all this without anyone knowing, which we all know was very naive. Eventually I texted my brother, and let him tell the rest of my family what was going on. A few days later, I did the same with a few of my friends. Personally, telling people what was going on, was the hardest part of the journey, and not because I was embarrassed about the type of cancer that I had.
I had my operation, very successfully performed by the one-and-only Dr. Bryden. I moved in with my brother and his family for the next week to recover. I went home as soon as I could, since I preferred to be at home. From here onward, I healed up, and started to think about what I was going to do before I started chemo. I tried to have some fun and go out a bit. Also, I had to tie up all loose ends with work (I am a financial advisor) before my upcoming 8-month hiatus from work. Keeping the business going while I’m out of action is my current priority next to my recovery. I spent some time with friends, went out for drinks, and generally tried to relax.
Professionally, my job is making sure people have proper insurance, including Critical Illness Insurance. Fortunately, this was something that I properly planned for, even though I never thought this would happen to me. I have been doing this professionally, and as a business owner for eight years. Ironically, the first person that I sold a policy to that got sick was me.
I started chemo in February and I’m just on the tail end of my third treatment. I have three more to go. I should record here that my treatment plan has changed thanks to the help from MCBB in getting me lined up with the best oncologists (Dr. Leone, and Dr. Park). Dr. Leone was also my second opinion through my insurance company, a big coincidence. When I realised that he was the same person, I decided to switch my treatment based on his recommendation. That recommendation was then re-confirmed by Dr. Park.
The year 2017 was the best, and the worst year of my life. As I was sick for a huge part of 2016, and unable to speak, I decided to challenge myself and try to have the best year I could. I managed to visit the USA and see six states.
- New Orleans for the Mardi Gras.
- Maine for white-water rafting.
- Florida, where I qualified to be part of an international financial planning organization.
- Massachusetts, I drove to Boston to see my first NHL game.
- Utah and Idaho, where I hiked Mount Borah with 12 strangers, and some survival experts from the show “Naked and Afraid”, to see the eclipse. The mountain that I saw it from was the best and highest vantage point over the entire USA.
My biggest accomplishment, other then beating cancer, was beating the mountain. It was a big challenge to begin with, as I’m terrified of heights. It’s sometimes very satisfying to look at the pictures from the climb, because I don’t know of anyone else who has climbed a mountain while having cancer.