Bobby Were (57) walked around with a lump in his breast for two years, but didn’t think much of it because “men don’t get breast cancer”.
As the time passed, the lump grew in size and became quite irritable, but still Bobby didn’t think it was serious. “I showed a friend who said that it’s just an infection in one of the glands and that he also got it from time to time,” Bobby said, who is a small-business owner in Polokwane.
One day he went to collect his wife at the doctor’s office when she went for an annual mammogram when she suggested he show the doctor the lump on his breast.
“The doctor gave it one look and said: ‘that’s cancer’,” said Bobby. “I didn’t believe her and was quite annoyed that she would say something like that from just looking at it. Who the hell did she think she was?”
On the insistence of his wife he went to a surgeon who wanted to remove it the very next day. Although Bobby agreed to have the lump removed, he still didn’t believe it was cancer. “I thought this was a big fuss over nothing.
“Before going into surgery the doctor said that if they open it up and find it to be cancer, they will have to do a mastectomy (removal of the breast) and insert drains for the lymph nodes. So when I woke up after surgery and felt the drains coming out of my side, that was the first time I actually realised that I had cancer,” said Bobby.
“Then I started chemo, and that was the real killer.” But it was in the waiting room when he went for his chemo that he started chatting to other patients, sharing stories, empathising and relating to them. “I started getting involved with cancer support groups and organisations, and today I am a volunteer with Reach to Recovery, TLC (Tough Living with Cancer) as well as CANSA.”
Having a phobia for needles himself, Bobby said that he found that he can really relate to the fear and terror young children go through when receiving chemotherapy. He often visits newly diagnosed patients, or people that have undergone cancer surgery as well as the children’s oncology ward to offer support.
“Breast cancer opened my eyes to a different world. You realise you can’t take money with you. It really changed my outlook on life.”
For other cancer patients Bobby wants to say: “Don’t lose hope – cancer may be a killer disease but it can also be cured. There is so much that can be done.”