Albert Golding, 47, had no idea men could get breast cancer until he was diagnosed with the disease. What he thought was a wasp bite turned out to be something a lot more serious.
Albert on his diagnosis
I got home from work and the neighbour’s hedge was really annoying me, so I started hedging. I’d done it three months beforehand and got done on the chest by a wasp so I thought it had happened again because a week later my nipple was inverted. I just thought it had done me on the nipple.
I went to the GP to get tested and that’s when they told me it was breast cancer. There was a bit of a lump there, but I didn’t take much notice of it.
I didn’t have a clue males could get breast cancer. I would’ve thought it was just a rash and ignored it for longer, even though it didn’t look right. I’m really glad my neighbours didn’t do the hedges.
It was a big time shock, when my doctor told me I paused for five minutes. My GP was really good and asked me if I wanted a cup of tea.
I came home and told the family, my wife Amelia 42, and older kids Jarod, 17, and Skye, 15. They were a little bit shocked too, the teenagers just said ‘OK, Dad.’ I don’t think they really understood. Mitchell, 4, was our surprise baby and he was too young to understand. Even after everything, I still don’t think they quite realised what was happening. If it was Amelia, it would have been a bigger impact for them.
“I went to the GP to get tested and that’s when they told me it was breast cancer. There was a bit of a lump there, but I didn’t take much notice of it.” – Albert Golding
I had a mastectomy, a second operation because it had spread to my lymph nodes, chemotherapy and radiation is coming up shortly. I had the mastectomy in June and the second surgery in July. I had a heavy dose of chemo every two weeks for eight weeks and then a lighter dosage for 12 weeks.
I didn’t see any other guys with breast cancer in there, it was just me.
After surgery, I needed a bag for the drains and that’s when I met Karen. She assumed I wouldn’t want one of those pink bags that other breast cancer patients carry and she was hunting around to find a male one, but I didn’t like the look of them. I said, ‘I want one of those big pink bags’. And she looks at me and says, ‘Do you know how much running around I had to do to find this (male) bag?’ It was pretty funny actually.
I don’t mind pink. Karen was wearing the McGrath Foundation shirt and I liked the colour. I wasn’t afraid to wear a big pink bag; I liked the look of them. Some ladies would look of course, when I was carrying them around, then I’d show them and tell them I had breast cancer.
Albert on men and breast cancer
I think the more men know about this the better if it’s going to save lives. A lot of men, by the time they realise, it’s too late for them. You need to get on it early like I did.
I did ask Karen about it and she said other men are embarrassed by it. Well that’s silly. My message for other men is don’t muck around – go see the doctor straight away and do something about it right away.
I went in there early and am so glad I did. After the second operation, one of the surgeons was there for check-ups and he said to me, ‘You thought a wasp stung you – how lucky are you! You should buy a lotto ticket.’ I did and won $100, I was pretty happy about that.
If the McGrath Foundation ever needs a face for men with breast cancer, I put my hand up.
I’m not embarrassed about having breast cancer. The only thing I hated was when my hair fell out. It’s slowly growing out again and has a bit of darker hair coming back through it. I don’t like the look of myself without hair, I just hate it.
With chemo, a couple of mornings I had nausea but I didn’t throw up and pretty much nothing else changed. It was only the last chemo that under my feet started getting a little bit sore (with neuropathy) so they stopped the last three chemos. They are slowly getting better.
It looks like breast cancer runs on dad’s side of the family, my sister in New Zealand has breast cancer too, but we weren’t told any of that stuff. It was funny, I went to my auntie’s 90th birthday part in Coffs Harbour last year and my cousins took us to the cemetery to see where our grandparents were buried. While we were there, we found out another auntie was buried nearby, her name was Amelia Golding and she died from breast cancer at 48. And then I found out I had breast cancer earlier this year.
My sister and I haven’t been tested for the BRCA gene yet, but we’ll get that done.
Karen’s role in Albert’s journey
I met Karen before I had the operation, at first consultation with my doctor, and straight away even just talking to her made me feel real comfortable. I was nervous before I went in there, but talking to her eased my tension. I understood more from her than the doctor.
She’s been there the whole time. You could not get a better breast care nurse than Karen.
I think it would have been harder without her. She comes across more like family, she’s so caring in what she does and you feel so comfortable talking to her about everything. Every time we see her she smiles and talks to you about what you need to know with all the cancer stuff.
She’s there for Amelia too, she always hugs us hello and goodbye and just brightens your day up. She’s just so nice; we ended up buying her a Christmas present.