A dad diagnosed with breast cancer says he felt isolated and lonely after being rejected by Facebook support groups because he is male.
David McCallion, 55, was diagnosed with the illness shortly before his 30th wedding anniversary and even his own doctor assumed that his wife was the patient when they talked about the diagnosis. Facing a mastectomy and being left to feel as though ‘real men’ don’t get breast cancer, he turned online to look for support. But, he was told that he could not join because he was a man and it would prevent other members from opening up about their own concerns. He said: ‘I was made to feel like I was muscling in, but the last thing I wanted to do was jump up and down saying, “Look at me I’ve got breast cancer too”.’ Every year 390 men are diagnosed as having the condition in the UK and 80 of them die. David, from Manchester, said: ‘If the other 389 men feel anything like I did, something needs to be done. I will never be the same person I was before my diagnosis. Cancer is lonely, full stop. But being a man in what I call the ‘pink world’ of breast cancer – that’s even lonelier.’
He said: ‘When I tell other blokes about my diagnosis, half say, “Men don’t get breast cancer,” and I lift up my shirt and say, “Yes they do.” ‘Some ask why I’ve had it, as if to say, “Are you really a man?” David, who is married to Julie, 54, and they have two sons, want to break taboos around male breast cancer. He was diagnosed in 2015 with gynaecomastia, a common condition causing men’s breasts to become larger than normal. Then in April 2019, David noticed his right nipple was inverted and thought it must be linked to the condition. He was referred to the Royal Oldham Hospital but he was not initially concerned. But then the results for tests came back. He said: ‘Twenty minutes after the biopsy the doctor said that, in his opinion, there was a 99 per cent chance it was going to be cancer’. The first thing I thought was, “How the hell am I going to tell my family?”
‘My second thought was, “How am I going to tell everybody else I have breast cancer – as a man?” My head was completely gone.’ David went back to hospital with his wife a few days later to find out more. He said: ‘For the next eight minutes everything the doctor said was addressed to my wife and, in the end, I had to tell him to talk to me and not to her. ‘He explained that he breaks this news to women day in day out, which is why he didn’t address me at first.’ He was told that he would need a full mastectomy on his right breast, which he delayed until after celebrating his wedding anniversary in August last year. Speaking about going under the knife, he said: ‘I gave (Julie) a quick hug and said, “See you later.” I didn’t want her to think I was worried.’ He later needed another 24 lymph nodes removed, that were found not to be cancerous, but is now on a gruelling regime of chemotherapy, which will last until the end of next month.
He is also facing further tests to find out if the condition is hereditary as his mother also had breast cancer. He was told his surgery had been a success but, after the lymph node tested positive, on October 4 David – who was not offered reconstructive surgery and does not want it – had a further 24 removed. As his treatment progressed, he found the #bluegetittoo awareness campaign about male breast cancer. Now David is keen to make men aware that breast cancer can affect them, too, and is urging them to check themselves for tell-tale symptoms.