By Tim Manshack
On November 16th, 2016 at 3:30 pm I was diagnosed with ductal breast carcinoma. My life has changed forever and now I’m on a crazy journey. On Tuesday, January 24th, I will be having a bilateral mastectomy with possible chemo to follow.
I am a 55-year-old healthy man who works many hours as a framing construction foreman. My first thought after learning I had breast cancer was, ” I don’t have time for this.” Well, I am learning cancer does not care if you have time or not and it DOES NOT care if you are male or female.
For years I have supported women’s breast cancer awareness and have participated in several fundraisers. I too love the PINK and wear it and share proudly, but in a million years I never would have thought this could be happening to me. I always knew men could get breast cancer, but that was about all I ever thought about it.
About six months ago, I noticed my left nipple was inverted. Then three months later I felt two small lumps, one of them was tender when I slept on my side. I hid my chest from wife Christie as much as I could, but on the first of November, she saw my nipple and grabbed me. After Christie lectured me (lol), she got me an appointment with our primary care right away.
First was the mammogram and ultra sound, then a week later a biopsy of my left breast and lymph nodes. I had my results back in four days. When the doctor’s office called and asked if we could come down within the hour, we knew the news would not be good.
A few weeks later we saw Dr. Michele Carpenter, an oncology surgeon at St. Joe’s in Orange, California. The only reason I didn’t go sooner was because I wanted to complete a big work project.
The next step was genetic testing. It took three more weeks to learn I tested positive for the BRCA2 mutation. We shared this new info right away with my siblings, three sisters and a brother. I also have two sisters from the same biological mother. Everyone was in shock and I’m sure scared. As a Christmas gift to my family, my wife made all my siblings packets full of BRCA info. Christie also included a letter from my genetics counselor showing my positive test result. This was in the hopes of making their testing easier, plus we were told with this letter most insurance companies would cover the costs. (As of today one sibling has been tested and is waiting for results. I’m hoping the others will test soon.)
By now, Christmas was around the corner. Dr. Carpenter gave me the option to wait until after the holidays to have surgery, and reassured me it would be fine to wait. We both decided to do the bilateral mastectomy, so my operation was pushed back to January 24th. Since I am HER2 positive, the doctors have told me I am a very good candidate for the drug Tamoxifen after surgery.
Even before knowing about the BRCA2, I wanted a bilateral from my initial diagnosis. I feel right now no one really knows if my breast cancer will go to the other breast. I’ve been told the cancer could travel to another part of the body, but no real research of going left to right. My thoughts are if they don’t know for sure, what if down the road, even 10 years from now, there is new information it can? My decision had nothing to do with looks or being vain, as I am not a vain man. I just feel like having both breasts removed is one less worry. These will be my battle scars and I will be proud!
I have and will continue to share all the information I have on my diagnosis and treatment in the hopes another male may relate to one piece of this crazy puzzle. I hope with sharing my story and awareness it could save a life and help prevent any man from going through this. My hopes is one day all men will automatically get a breast exam when they go for their prostate exams, you know, a P&B check up. Also all men should be encouraged to do self exams. Don’t put anything off if something looks or feels wrong. You know your own body better than anyone.
Even though I am the same man inside, I need to take the time to heal, recover and be more aware of my body and mind. I will always have to be proactive about my screenings. I know the fear will always be there, but I can’t let it consume my life.
I can’t tell you how grateful Christie and I are for the Male Breast Cancer Coalition. Peggy has reached out to us with open arms and we feel like we are part of an amazing large family with others going through the same thing. She has shared a lot of information along with connecting us with other men or as I say, “Other Brothers” to talk, share and support. I have an amazing support team around me. I know I have cancer. It does NOT have me.