In the Netherlands, a country with 16 million inhabitants, 100 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
Most people are not aware that men get this ‘female disease’: friends and family react surprised; brochures and patient information leaflets are written with the female patient in mind; in the waiting room, these men are called “Mrs.” when off guard hospital staff reads the patient list out loud.
What is it like for men to suffer from breast cancer? With my series I want to show the people behind these male patients. Because they also want to be treated the right way when they discover a small lump on their chest. Because they want to be taken seriously as a patient.
Video link ‘Replace she with he’ (Dutch)
“I went to the hospital without my wife. I didn’t think it was something to worry about. Then the doctor told me I had breast cancer. After this news I had to drive home alone. I don’t wish that for anyone.”
“I’m an avid sportsman, I attend a lot of triathlons. At one point I was tired of people looking at me. I went to a tattoo shop. Can you do nipple tattoos? I’m satisfied with the result. I don’t get questions anymore.”
“The patient information leaflet I got only applied to women. Yes, it is clear to me that I don’t have my period anymore.”
“When I’m on the beach I would rather keep my shirt on.”
Erwin (20-08-1969 – 01-01-2015)
“It is important for people to know that men can also get breast cancer. I don’t mind my portrait on a billboard if it saves another man’s life.”
“After the operation I didn’t want to sit on the couch and feel sorry for myself. So I put my surgical drain in a bucket, got on my bicycle and went to my vegetable garden.”
“During chemotherapy, I continued with my job. I’m a driving instructor, so that wasn’t a problem. Though, at the end of the day, I had to drag myself upstairs. ”
“In 2005 I decided to attend a meeting from the Breast Cancer Association Netherlands. When I entered the room I only saw women. I said to myself: “Well, Simon, be prepared!” In the beginning, they had difficulty with my critical questions, but in the end they started a support group for male breast cancer patients.”
“Every day I drink a litre of soursop tea. That’s full of antioxidants. I got that advice from my granddaughter. With a teaspoon of pure honey, not the one from the supermarket. Our food is processed in so many ways these days, I don’t think that’s healthy.”
“A breast reconstruction isn’t necessary. There aren’t many odes written about the male breast.”
“The nurse was calling “Miss Pauwels”. And I was thinking: hey, another person with the same last name. Then I realized she meant me.”