Breast cancer: It’s not just for girls!

That’s right boys, just when you thought that there was one kind of cancer you couldn’t get, you’re wrong.

Less than one per cent of all breast cancer cases are male related, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen to you. It happened to my dad. You go through life knowing about cancer, hearing the word all the time and being affected through people you know that had a battle and probably brush the idea of it aside. But, when someone close to you in your family has it, or you get it yourself, it takes on a whole new meaning and your life is changed. This is where my story begins.

It was 1999 and what a year it was! So much was happening in the life of an 18-year-old fresh out of high school and about to begin a new life in university. I had started the summer with a bang making tons of new friends, staying out late, going swimming late at night with all my friends at Rotary Sunshine Park then thawing ourselves out with a coffee, and singing Backstreet Boys songs in random parking lots throughout the city.

Then there were the weddings! One of my brothers married in June, and the other married at the beginning of September. Needless to say it was chaos, but it was so much fun! After my second brother’s wedding, I was about to head into a new life at Memorial where I made even more friends and the parties continued.

Life was SWEET! Now that my brother’s were married I had my own bathroom, my own phone line and I was happily adjusting to the glorious life that I was leading. Ah, the simple pleasures of life. Just when you think life couldn’t change anymore, you come home from work one night, and it changes again.

I arrived home from work late one night in September. My parents had two of their friends over. I thought it was kind of strange seeing as it was 11 p.m. and they usually wouldn’t visit so late. Ignoring that, I said hello and walked into the den to check my email. Once they left, Dad went upstairs and Mom came in to say good night and I could tell she had something on her mind. She took a deep breath and said, “Dad has cancer.”

I remember feeling empty. Everything around me went silent. My heart felt so heavy, and it was just a numbing feeling. I was in complete shock I didn’t know what to say or do because it wasn’t something I expected to hear. Dad went to the doctor all the time for his cholesterol or blood tests. I hardly ever paid attention to these appointments because I always thought, “My dad isn’t going anywhere.” Despite being 18 at the time, and being an intelligent person, it’s funny how you revert to being a child again and thinking that your parents are going to live forever.

My mom then proceeded to tell me what kind of cancer it was. Breast cancer? How is that possible? At this point we didn’t know how bad it was, how far it had spread, if it did at all, and what was going to happen next. All we knew is that it was in his left breast and the lymph nodes under his left armpit. Mom just left me in the den to process this completely shocking information and I just cried. It was funny, I didn’t have to say it, but I wanted to be alone and she knew. It seems like one’s perceptions and intuitions become extremely heightened at a time like this. You just know what the right thing to do is.

All I could think of was my future and Dad not being there, and it hurt so badly. I’m the only girl in my family and naturally I’m daddy’s little girl. Would he see me walk across the stage at my convocation? Will he ever walk me down the aisle when I get married someday? I pictured Christmases with him not being there and it was just so bare.

The days following his diagnosis were pretty much blurry. The most important thing was to get information which led to me asking a lot of questions or just waiting to hear something from my parents as to what the doctors were saying and what we had to do to get Dad better. There was to be no more crying about whether Dad was going to be around or not. There was no other choice. He had to fight, and he did.

I remember his words so well: “This cancer is not going to get the best of me.” And he wasn’t kidding either! This is a point in your life where being stubborn is a good thing! His attitude and strength were amazing. Throughout everything he kept up his spirit and amazing sense of humour. Medicine and science have a lot to do with curing my dad. However, there is a lot to be said for believing in yourself and having faith in yourself and the support that is given to you by others.

Dad also had the love and support of our amazing mother who was truly his rock throughout the entire process and of course, myself and my two brothers. We also had a huge network of family and friends that were always there for us when we needed them. It was great to know that so many people cared about us.

Well, it’s almost five years since his diagnosis and he is living life and loving it more as each day passes. Not to mention, he looks younger and better then he ever has! Our family is more of a team, working together. We rely on each other more then we used to because we all had a hand in getting each other, as well as Dad, through his entire experience.

That year, as trying as it was, taught me to not take anything for granted. Life is truly a gift and you must be thankful for it each and everyday, not only your own life, but the lives of others as well.

Tags: