John Kirtland

My name is John Kirtland. I am 69 years old, a retired Aircraft Engineer.

On the 16th of October 2008 I was diagnosed with ‘Breast cancer’ – nobody was more surprised than me – Men get breast Cancer? I was in the shower and happened to notice a marble sized lump behind my right nipple, the nipple had been inverted for years and I had never paid any attention to it up until this moment.

After speaking to my daughter; who is a Homeopathic Doctor, I was sent for a Sonar Scan, X-rays, and went to the Bone and Breast Clinic for a Mammogram and Biopsy. This was in the September of 2008 and I am pretty sure that had it not been for my daughter’s insistence to get it checked out things would be very different today. The cancer was at Stage two and was just beginning to start exploring my body.

Breast Cancer in males is pretty rare. The exact number of breast cancer patients in South Africa is not available but in the United Kingdom 1 in a 153 breast cancer patients diagnosed is male – The average age is 65 years!

The most common symptom is a lump in the nipple area. Other common symptoms include nipple discharge or ulcers.

Treatment is usually surgical, and a mastectomy is normally followed by either chemotherapy or radiation. Occasionally hormone treatments may also be used to treat breast cancer in males.

I went for the whole ‘Nine Yards’.  On the 6th of November I started four sessions of chemotherapy followed by a full right mastectomy a further four chemo’s and 30 sessions of radiation. I finished all my treatment on the 16th of July 2009 and now go for 6 monthly check-ups of which my 5 year term will expire in July 2014 – ‘Yippee’

“Hey” So far so good. Not the most pleasant journey in my life but I have to admit one of the most humbling. I’ve met some wonderful people and been exposed to things one could never imagine.

One of my proudest moments was my involvement with the ‘Moments in Time Trust’ – this initiative was created and sponsored by AstraZenica Pharmaceuticals. It tells the story of extraordinary people and their battle with cancer through the lens of a camera. I happened to be Mr October in the 2010 calendar. Funds raised from this project were set aside to help underprivileged South African citizens living with cancer and do not have access to a medical aid. I do enjoy the inter-action with various support groups such as ‘Wings of Hope’, ‘Pink Drive’ & ‘Bosom Buddies’ to name but a few, a dedicated bunch of ladies that work very hard to share their knowledge and make things better for those less fortunate than ourselves.

Health wise I’m in fair shape (Round!!!) and seem to have recovered from the ordeal quite well. Looking back I feel I should have monitored my vitamin intake and checked bone density etc. bones and teeth seem to have taken the biggest knock but there again one has to be careful as it may have been counter productive the prescribed treatment.

A closing point and without a doubt my party piece; for the past five years, having completed my treatment I’m on a supporting drug called ‘Tamoxifen’ this was to control my oestrogen levels. Being naturally inquisitive I ‘Googled’ various breast cancer sights and became totally confused, I was not really surprised to see that nearly all of the literature is directed at the female species “Men don’t get breast cancer” – Ugh? Much to my horror; upon checking up on Tamoxifen; one of the contra indications was a ‘Dry Virgina’ the last thing I needed after all I’d been through?

Guys; “TAKE NOTE” Breast cancer is a very real problem for men, there have been many new cases of male breast cancer at my clinic since my treatment. “GET CHECKED OUT, IT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE” it did mine.