If there was one overriding feeling in the process of being a male diagnosed with breast cancer I would say that feeling was one of complete and utter frustration. Certainly I experienced a variety of emotions from the first indication that something was amiss. Perhaps the place to start is at the beginning.
Rebecca and I were making love. In the process, which was a heck of a lot of fun bye the way, she became very serious and as she backed away, she gently placed her index finger on a tiny lump just under my nipple and said "what the hell is this?" The offending lump was something I had never noticed and I said as much. She was not to be distracted from her concern however and we talked about this little invader we came to know as "The Alien." After some discussion we determined that first thing Monday morning we would call my Attending Physician and make an appointment to be seen.
The following week we went in to see my physician and he examined The Alien and said that I ought not to worry, that it was "just a cyst" and that we needn't be concerned. He also said that if we were not comfortable with dismissing the issue, or if the size or texture of this lump were to change, we ought to call and have him have yet another look.
Well that didn't sit well with Rebecca and we discussed it for a couple weeks following our initial appointment with the doc. In truth neither of us was terribly comfortable with the lack of detailed information we had concerning the lump and we called and set a second appointment with Steve. He seemed perplexed when we sat there insisting that The Alien be removed at the earliest possible opportunity but offered to refer me to the surgeon across the hall from his office.
Several days later we received a call from the surgeon's office and an appointment had been set for me to come in and have The Alien excised. So there I sat, propped on the surgeon's exam table as he prepped my chest and injected a local anesthetic. As he prepped the site, he too said that I needn't worry as The Alien was surely "just a cyst" and would not pose significant issues for me or in this case for him to excise it.
Well, that was easier said than done. As he cut deeper and deeper he found that what we thought was a tiny pea sized lump was much larger and much more deeply imbedded than any of us had thought. After several more injections of local anesthetic and a lot more cutting the surgeon lifted an encapsulated shiny white mass about the size of my thump from the wound and placed it in a specimen container. I thought I would be relieved to see The Alien removed from my chest but in truth, I wasn't relieved at all. What I felt was dread.
In Washington State, the law requires that any mass removed from a body must be sent to pathology and we were told that the surgeon's office would call when the pathology report was in. Weeks passed, two weeks and counting. Both Rebecca and I lived with anxiety through that period and never seemed able to relax into the belief that it was "just a cyst." Early in the third week after the excision I called the surgeon's office and inquired. I was told that the lab that had examined The Alien was not comfortable with the findings and that The Alien had been sent on to yet another lab for further study. It was then, my heart in my throat and my guts threatening descend through my chair I asked.... where was it sent? I was told that The Alien had been sent over to "Fred Hutchison" for further examination.
A week later my office phone rang and as I answered the caller identified himself as the surgeon and his words still echo in my mind. He said "I'm so sorry.... Can you come in to see me?"