By Roland “Fatty” Taylor
Since I retired from the Denver Nuggets in 1977, I’d been going for yearly physicals. At one of my check ups in 2000, my regular doctor, a man, was out and a female doctor asked if it was OK for her to give me my exam.
When I took off my shirt, the doctor’s eyes rolled toward the back of her head.
You see, I had in inverted nipple on my right breast. It was something I had been living with for four years. I had no discharge, I wasn’t sore, just thought it was part of getting older.
Well, the female doctor wrote something on a paper, gave it to me and told me to go straight to the hospital’s emergency room. I still don’t know what she wrote down, I was too scared to look.
When I got to the hospital, doctor after doctor came to see me. The first doctor pressed on my nipple and didn’t say a word. The second and third doctors the same. Nobody would tell me what was going on.
Next thing I know, I was told I had breast cancer. No tests were taken, nothing. Not a single x-ray. They told me to go home, get things squared away and to come back the next morning at 6AM for surgery.
When I walked to my car, I was in complete shock. I was a professional athlete. I was always in great shape. Never even had any surgeries before this. What were they talking about? I remember thinking, I’ll come back in the morning and everyone will tell me this was all a big mistake.
Of course that didn’t happen. Instead I had a mastectomy and 21 lymph nodes removed, all negative. The doctor told me I’d know in four-five days if I had a long or short life ahead of me. What? I was all alone. I don’t like to put anybody out, so was fighting this breast cancer thing all by myself. No support.
The hospital sent me home without any instructions or anything. I just went home. I didn’t even know how to change my bandages. Thankfully a friend came to visit, she was a nurse, she couldn’t believe I was home and didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing. She came by every day to help me change bandages and empty my drains.
One afternoon in 2011, I was walking down the street and couldn’t catch my breath. Turns out I had blood clots all over my lungs and the cancer had spread to my left breast and lungs and my bones. I was in the hospital for 30 days to treat the clots, then the cancer. I also developed a staph infection.
There’s not a lot of literature out there about male breast cancer. I couldn’t find any information, just some statistics. None of my doctors have even mentioned anything to me about genetic testing. Where are the support groups for men?
One day I got a call from Sue Miller of Day of Caring. She asked me if I wanted to talk and come meet others in a support group. I was the only man, of course, but I was still happy to be getting help. A breast cancer survivor and her husband overheard me talking about my situation and they stepped in to help. We’ve been close friends since and have helped me in more ways than I can explain. I’m a truly blessed guy.
My advice to all men, check your body. I was devastated when I heard I had breast cancer. I still get emotional sometimes, but now I cry with joy, not sadness.
On March 13, 2015, I celebrated my 69th birthday and on March 21st I celebrated my 15th year as a breast cancer survivor. Since I own my own events company we had a BIG party. Well, I’m having my 16th celebration on April 2nd too! What’s good for the spirit is always good for the soul.
At my monthly check up in early July, my cancer numbers went up and I learned my cancer spread, again. It’s in my bones, in my pelvis. There’s a lotta pain.
Recently I got real sick and couldn’t move for four or five days. My whole body hurt. The pain was so unbearable I thought it was the beginning of the worst to come. I stayed in bed and had a pity party for myself. When the pain let up, I went for a walk in the park. It was time for me to make up my mind. Should I fight or just give up? It was time to either get busy living or get busy dying.
After the walk, I started going back to work at my events center. I had a little pain, but could deal with it. I’m also back working with kids at my Taylor Made Playaz Basketball Camp and with at risk youth on an AAU travel basketball team. I can’t just sit around. I’m fighting this thing standing up.
I don’t get into the cancer stages, don’t want to ask, don’t tell me, don’t want to hear, and don’t want to know. I do what I’ve got to do. Oh, and I did send the woman doctor a thank you note for saving my life.