‘I had to wonder: If I hadn’t talked to my friend, would I have let it go?’
Once Kenneth Taylor got past the shock of learning he had breast cancer—and his immediate worries that “this was the end of the line for me”—he got angry. He wasn’t angry because he had been diagnosed with a rare disease for men. “I have no problem with the fact that I have breast cancer,” he says. “I was angry with myself because I wish I had been more proactive.”
For some time, Kenneth had been noticing an “irritation” on his chest. “It felt like a chest hair was momentarily caught in my shirt,” he explains, “or at least that’s what I assumed. But, I was in the shower one day and got the same sensation.” Taylor investigated and felt a lump in his breast. “Now, about the same time this happened, I had a friend who also had breast cancer and a mastectomy. I told him what I found and he said it sounded like what he had.”
Kenneth made an appointment with a physician and was told it could be a fatty deposit or that it could go away. It was recommended that he start a diet to lose some weight. The physician “had a wait-and-see attitude and I accepted that. Our conversation got away from the original reason why I was there. I should have been more insistent,” he recalls.
But, over the next month, Kenneth couldn’t shake the talk he had with his friend. “I felt I should go back. Besides, it felt a little different.” At this second visit, the physician “got the ball rolling. I went for imaging and a biopsy and they found out it was Stage II cancer. Then I had a mastectomy. I had to wonder: If I hadn’t talked to my friend, would I have let it go? Would I have brushed it off, because not very many men get breast cancer?”
Kenneth is right about that fact: Less than 1 percent of all men will be diagnosed with breast cancer. While men may contract it at any age, it is most frequently detected between the ages of 60 and 70. Taylor is 69.
He had surgery in April 2008 and then underwent rounds of chemotherapy and radiation at the NorthBay Cancer Center.
Taylor has now moved past that anger and the fear he felt.
“That initial period is quite emotional; you think the worst and wonder if it’s your time to check out. But now I openly talk about my diagnosis because it helps me deal with it. I even have a cap with a pink ribbon on it,” he says, because he wants to start a dialogue with other men. “I want them to know men can get breast cancer, too. And, I encourage them to not just sit there and accept a wait-and-see. Speak up, stand up, and ask questions.”