June is Men’s Health Awareness Month, and it will strike a special chord with Cameron February, from Athlone, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 49.
His journey started in 2011 when he noticed a fluid coming out of his left breast, after his son, Justin, 15, knocked his head against his chest.
A year later, in 2012, he noticed a lump in the same breast. Mr February went for a biopsy in March that year, and the results came back negative. However, in May, he decided to have the lump removed at Melomed Hospital in Mitchell’s Plain, because it worried him.
“The surgeon, however, did not remove the lump but removed fat under the nipple, and sent it for tests. The results came back and said I have 1.2 millimetres of cancer,” said Mr February.
He was given a letter to take to Groote Schuur Hospital for treatment.
“I was so shocked and devastated. I thought I would never see my son again. I felt like my life came to an end,” he said.
On Monday May 28, he had his first breast scan to see how far the cancer had spread.
He then consulted with his cousin, Marc Combrinck, who is a professor in neurology at Groote Schuur.
Together with his colleague, Professor Eugene Panieri, the pair decided that it was best to have his left breast removed.
About a week later, on Thursday June 7, Mr February underwent the procedure and started with chemotherapy on Monday July 2.
“People say the chemotherapy will make you nauseous, but it didn’t make me nauseous at all. On the second session, however, my hair started falling out, and so I decided to shave it all off.”
Later that year, in September, he went for another chemotherapy session and another in October.
“I felt very weak, I was also going through a divorce at the time and was unemployed, but I had many people supporting me.”
In November, Mr February started his radiation treatment, going every day for three weeks. He continued to go for check-ups every six months after that.
“My hair started growing back in 2013, and I felt human again. My teeth, however, became very weak. One day, I bit on a chicken bone and my tooth cracked in half. I had to have a root canal done, but that didn’t last, so I went for an implant instead.”
Mr February still goes for regular check-ups every six months and now enjoys yoga and transcendental meditation.
“My message to men out there is to go and get tested if you notice anything is wrong. Don’t wait till the last minute. I know men don’t like to get tested. Don’t keep quiet about it either, talk to your partners about it. Know what is happening in your bodies.”
In January this year, he started the Braveheart Foundation.
The idea is to create cancer awareness among men and give them support, although he has yet to launch the foundation.
Mr February’s last check-up will be in June next year. If all goes well, he will be cancer free for five years.