Andrew Hartling

Andrew Hartling - profileName: Andrew Hartling

Age: 39

Hometown: Belleville, Ontario

Do you work? Loss Prevention Manager for a major Canadian retailer

Your Cancer experience:

How did you find out you were sick? What led to the diagnosis?

I noticed a small bump under my right nipple. Being a typical man, I ignored it for a while but ended up seeing my family doctor in December 2010. I was told it was probably nothing but I should have some tests done to make sure. I was sent for an ultrasound and a mammogram. Being a man and being sent for a mammogram is quite an experience. The results came back and I was told they still weren’t quite sure so I was scheduled for a biopsy. It was about a week later the doctor called me and told me my diagnosis was Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. I was very confused about what I was being told and I had to ask him to confirm if that meant I had cancer. He was very sympatric as he explained to me I had breast cancer. I was at a loss for words and simply thanked the doctor and hung up on him.

What was your diagnosis?

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in my right breast

What year was it? What was your age at the time?

I was first diagnosed in December of 2010. I was 38 at the time.

In which Hospitals were you treated?

Belleville General Hospital, Kingston General Hospital

What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?

I was very scared and confused. My first instinct was that I needed information and I researched the Internet. There really wasn’t a lot of information on men’s breast cancer, but I did find an inspirational story of a gentleman from England who fought breast cancer and completely recovered. I have read his story at least 100 times.

How did your friends react? Were you treated any different?

When you are diagnosed with cancer and you share that information with your friends and co-workers, you quickly learn who your true friends are.

What did your treatment consist of?

In February of 2011 I was operated on and my right breast was removed (Mastectomy) as well as two nodes being removed for examination. The surgery was a success but one of the nodes was found to have a micro spot of cancer. I was scheduled for another surgery to have more nodes removed. In March 2010, I was operated on again and 25 nodes were removed and found to be completely cancer-free.

I just recently had my second treatment of FEC Chemo (four more to go) and I am scheduled to have radiation treatment after that.

I was losing my hair because of the chemo and that affected me greatly. One day I decided that I was going to take control and I totally shaved my head. It’s a difficult thing to explain, but it felt like I was taking control for once.

I was devastated by the mastectomy and I couldn’t even look at the scar for weeks. The nurses came and changed my dressings and I just looked away. I couldn’t look at it. They encouraged me that things looked and were healing well but I couldn’t look at it. It was very difficult to deal with the changes to my body.

What is your current medical status?

I am currently cancer-free but undergoing chemo and radiation treatments as a precaution to prevent reoccurrence.

What is the toughest part of your challenge?

The toughest part is putting my life on hold for so long. There are so many things that have changed in the last months and it is overwhelming sometimes.

What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now?  How have they changed since before your diagnosis?

It’s hard to explain but I was so secretive and private about my diagnosis for the first months. I didn’t tell anyone I had cancer, much less breast cancer. People around me knew I something was going on but only my closest circle of friends knew the truth. It’s been five months now since my first diagnosis and my attitude has changed. I want to talk about what is happening to me and ask for help when I need it.It took me quite a while to figure out that I couldn’t fight cancer by myself.

How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada?

I spoke to a very kind counselor at Kingston General Hospital and after hearing my story she suggested I look up the YACC website and maybe connect with some people who are facing the same challenges as me.