“‘Michael, our biopsy results came back and you have cancer.’
It’s a hell of a thing to be told by your family physician over the phone while you’re sitting in the basement smoking a cigarette and drinking your morning cup of coffee. I mean, I was still in my PJs and trying to wake up, but let’s backtrack a little bit.
Hi! My name is Michael Dimopoulos and I am a male breast cancer survivor. Never in a million years did I think I would not only be diagnosed with cancer, but have it be male breast cancer at that. Here is how it started.
One day, after occasional teasing by my wife (the early morning gym guru), I decided on a trial membership at a local gym. I love it! I’ve never been one for working out, but absolutely loved it! So, one night after I got home from the gym, I was washing up and felt what looked like a tiny lump the size of a dime next to my right nipple. Like most men, I assumed it was a cyst or an ingrown hair. Something mundane like that. But as I was getting dressed, I showed it to Lu (my wife). She tells me it’s probably nothing, but I should get it looked at by my doctor right away to be safe. Little did she I know she would be saving my life.
A trip to my doctor turned into an ultrasound, which turned into a biopsy, and here we are – drinking my coffee and being told I have cancer. Needless to say, when I went to work that day looking like someone walked over my grave.
I continued to look like this until my surgery a week later. My surgery could not get here fast enough (I told the surgeon that if they didn’t do it soon, I was going to take a bottle of whiskey and a steak knife and cut it out myself.) Now, if you’ve never had cancer, the scariest part is not knowing what stage it is. A biopsy doesn’t tell you that, only surgery does. Well, low and behold, they caught it early. It was a stage 1 and had not metastasized yet, but it was also a very aggressive strain. My oncologist had highly recommended I do three months of Chemo after I recover from surgery so that any traces of it in my body are destroyed.
Well, three weeks go by and I have to admit I kind of enjoyed it. It was like a vacation sitting at home and playing Xbox and watching daytime television. This might help you understand why I felt like I was on vacation – but now it was time to do Chemo and I was terrified. I kept picturing my head in the toilet all day and weighing 100 lbs, but all in all, it wasn’t that bad for me. From what my oncologist told me, Chemo affects everyone differently. In my case, I didn’t have nausea but I did have a lot of body aches and pains and lost all of my hair and skin color (pretty much, I looked like Gollum from ‘Lord of the Rings’).
By the way, I must mention how incredible my wife is. The entire three months I did Chemo, Lu would take off work when I had appointments just so I wouldn’t be at Chemo by myself. I don’t think I’ve ever loved her as much as I did during that time.
Another thing I learned as a cancer patient is that when you have it, you automatically become a member of a private club. That’s what it feels like anyway. When you meet someone that has or at one time had cancer, you feel like you could talk to them for hours, probably because of having such a strong common bond. I can’t lie, I’ve met some incredible people over the past 3 years. Between the patients and the medical staff, they are some of the nicest people I ever had the pleasure of talking with.
On my first trip to Chemo, I saw I saw an older gentleman who was a volunteer, handing out blankets and water bottles. He looked very familiar and as it turned out, he was my social studies teacher from middle school. He was retired, and since his wife was breast cancer survivor, he decided to volunteer his time at the hospital. Like I said, some pretty amazing people.
Well, it has been 3 years and I’m still cancer free. I still go for checkups, I’m still taking my Tamoxifen to prevent it from coming back. I am even going for mammograms, and I have to tell you as a man, those machines are not designed for us. One time I even had a nurse press her arms into my back to scooch me forward the plates like she was the Iron Sheik performing a wrestling move on me. Such lovely memories, too!
In closing, I just want to say that, yeah, there are a lot of men that think getting male breast cancer carries some type of stigma. But it’s no different than any other type of cancer. Hell, I still joke that it looks like my boobs are winking! So, if you’re a man, and you see or feel something out of the ordinary on your body, don’t be stubborn. Get yourself looked at – you just might be saving your own life!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters Michael Dimopoulos, 45, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. You can follow his journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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