Search this site
This is where you can find out about all the amazing things going on in the Online Community. It's where you'll find news about events and awareness months; ways to get involved with Macmillan and up-to-date campaigning news from Macmillan HQ.
Chris Lewis is a Macmillan volunteer who also blogs about his cancer experience. This post is also appearing on his own blog. Read more from Chris at www.chris-cancercommunity.blogspot.com.
I have always been an
obstinate man, and thought that I knew best. To be fair, I have always
listened to what others have had to say, but have generally gone with my
own judgement in the end.
When you are a young
man, all the testosterone is flowing, and no one is going to tell you what to
do. You think you are invincible, and when people talk about looking after your
health, and start thinking about pensions and the future, you just laugh! At no
stage in my life, have I felt out of step with my peers, as we laugh and joke
about our aches and pains, so it seems that we are all similar. "Go
to the doctor, you must be joking! It will get better, it always has. I can't
afford to take any time off work. The doctor is always busy, he won't have an appointment."
Generally, men have very few
close friends, and personally I have found it very difficult to discuss my
health issues, particularly, before my diagnosis. My wife recognised that some
of my symptoms were serious, but I never even mentioned them to my friends. I
just said that I felt tired.
On reflection, I still
can't believe, that I had so many things wrong with me, and I yet didn't
go to the doctor until it was nearly too late. I had night sweats, rashes on my
legs, aching joints, a sore throat, and unusual bowel movements. I thought they
were all unrelated, but no, how wrong could I be! I was actually covered in
tumours, and my Mantle Cell Lymphoma, had reached stage 4!!
My example is probably fairly
typical, of a lot of men. That is one of the reasons why cancer survival rates
in the UK are poorer than most of Europe. By the time a lot of cancers are
diagnosed, they have spread through the body, and are very difficult to treat.
Things are slowly improving, and it seems like every time someone famous is
affected, we have a temporary purge on that particular disease and symptoms.
A couple of the most common
cancers that men suffer from, are testicular, and prostate. In a lot of
instances, some of the early symptoms are recognisable, but we still feel loath
to go to our GP. There have been a lot of campaigns to help us recognise the
symptoms, so things have improved there.
This issue with male
attitudes to help/support does not stop here. It seems that it also applies to
going to the dentist, and any form of emotional support. Men just do not
seem to be able to ask for support even if they actually need it! I always
remember if I was navigating, and my wife was driving (pre satnav!) even if we
were lost, I would even hate asking for directions!
With the amount of
information these days, so readily available, you would imagine that it would
be the GPs complaining, about the never ending queue of men requesting a
check up.But still we have the same issue. Man's resistance to support. It seems
that this attitude is extremely difficult to change. In certain cultures, this
problem, becomes worse.
Personally, I have now
learned my lesson and can recognise any abnormal symptoms. I work
tirelessly raising awareness of all issues around cancer, and have extended my
reach by writing this blog. However, when talking to groups, in various
different settings, the men are still in the minority.
Maybe social media, is a new way of getting
men to understand their issues? Certainly there is a lot of work to be done,
because I know that even amongst my friends no one really thinks it
will happen to them!
Is it fear, machismo, lack of
knowledge, pressure at work? Do you find it difficult to ask for help and why?
I read your blog with interest and so totally agree with it. Many years ago my then partner my eldest childs father developed a lump in his testicles. Despite me begging pleading and trying all sorts he just wouldnt go to the docs. He stated many reasons like docs time is precious, it will go on its own , im only 22 so it cant be nothing that bad and another that suprised me was l am not letting no man touch my balls. It took months and l mean months of me nagging and constant arguments in the end l made the appointment and just told him to go. Unfortunately for him it was cancer.............they thought they removed it all but they hadnt and within 2 years my little boy had lost his daddy and l my partner. When l found out that he was terminally ill l was so so angry with him which just compounded the grieving process. If any men are reading this then please please put those things aside.................just get it checked out because none of us are too young or invinsible but if caught early we can be treated and recover.
I agree, but I have to say, reading this I am a bit of a bloke too it seems !
Maybe some women are just the same. I did exactly the same and ignored it all as nothing until I couldn't any more... and ended up with a tumour that had spread elsewhere.
I look back now and think how could i think that was normal? How could I think it would just go away?
I remember thinking I'll wait and go to the docs in the holidays as I didn't want to take a day off work. I don't know what it is, part of me didn't want to inconvenience others for 'nothing by taking a day off, waste doctor's time when they are so busy with people who really are ill, and perhaps an assumption that it won't happen to you (which is doubly stupid in my case as most of my family died youg, mostly of cancer)
I guess more people saying you are not bothering the doctor about nothing and not wasting people's time, and its better to do that and be safe than sorry and that young people do get cancers even ones that traditionally belong to older people.
I don't know what the answer is, but more awareness of get it checked out would be good I guess.
I have to confess to still doing it now. Oh I wont bother them, I'm sure its nothiing... I'll wait till my next appointment... maybe some of us never learn?
From a seemingly blokey woman who is rather lucky to still be here doing well....
Yes, men do put off going to the doctor, and although I had symptoms months before hand, I waited until a severe pain told me I had to see the doctor. I still don't know what caused the pain, but the incidental psa check overrode everything and my feet didn't touch the ground.
But part of the blame rests with the doctors who alwways give me the impression they are busy and they have other patients waiting. Certainly it would be worthwhile prompting all male patients over 70 about the "waterworks", since one in three men over 70 will contract prostate cancer.
The practice nurses on the other hand take the time to listen to you and I'd much rather see them; oh dear that doesn't sound right does it!
I think maybe the message to get things checked out early is starting to creep in amongst the youngsters, two of my sons have at different times found a lump in their testicle, they scuttled off down the Doctors a bit sharpish and fortunately they were at the hospital the same day having scans and blood tests,in both their cases all was well and it turned out to a harmless cyst for one of them and result of a minor sorts injury for the other, as you can imagine it was relief all round thanks to the sympathetic and swift support of their Doctor, who was always keen on preventative measures and was always willing to listen to any worries plus the fact that we've a lot of males in the family so have always talked a lot of "bollocks" and so on,
as their mum i've always stressed that they should be able to talk about any part of their bodies if its bothering them even if it was below the waist!! as a result i think my youngest can be a bit of a hypochondriac at times as he will now go to the Dr for any lump, bump, rash, ache or pain!! but i'd rather him do that then suffer in silence and embaressment , once he has been reassured he is fine and well he can go months without needing to see the Dr,, so as parents we should encourage them to be open about their health and their fears when they arise, hopefully by doing this maybe in the future men will feel more comfortable in owning up to whats worrying them where their health is concerned,, sadly last year one of my boys lost a friend to testicular cancer, bless him , he'd felt to shy to tell anyone and consequently by the time he did pluck up the courage it was too late,, so very sad and a waste of a young life,
On the other hand the older males in the family are always reluctant to go and trot out the usual excuses, time off work, Dr might be busy, i'm not ill etc etc blah blah blah.....us girls have to nag them !!
However, my late husband did go to his Dr on and off for a few years with the same problem, heartburn and indigestion,, she just used to give him a prescription for anti antacids and declare "yes, you have indigestion and heartburn",, not knowing that there was any connection between this and stomach cancer , he trusted her judgement, she never once adviced further investigation, i used to tell him to ask for a referal to hospital but he would always say he was ok and couldn't take the time off work for lengthy appointments and tests,, i started look up his symptoms and didn't like what i was reading so nagged and nagged until he did, by that time he was having trouble swallowing, he saw a different Dr that time who immediately sent him for and endoscopy the a ct scan,, Yes, you've guessed right , it was stomach /gullet cancer... and it was too late , after 15 rounds of chemo and an op he died after 14 months of pain and suffering,, my point is here that even when people do go to the Drs,, sometimes the Drs don't take it seriously and just fob you off with tablets, aren't they the ones who are supposed to listen and take your symptoms seriously after all they are the bloody Drs and are supposed to know the potential dangers that certain symptoms can be a sign of?? i heard this sort of scenario from so many people and for people like my husband , who wouldn't have dreamed of telling the Dr what to do because basically he felt he was wasting their time and a certain amount of fear and reluctance on his part it was all too late,, the Dr that took him seriously did everything he could to get things moving and for that i'm grateful but if the original one had taken notice of him in the first place and got him checked out i can't help but think he may still be here today,, he may of still got cancer in the end but he would have had a sporting chance surely if it had been discovered earlier... who knows?? so please please please any one who feels or knows someone who feels that things aren't quite right ,, get down the Drs and keep on at them until you are satisfied that something is done to get the ball rolling,, your life or that of a loved one could be at risk,, fortunately the crap Dr retired shortly after my husband was diagnosed, the one that took over was 100 times more efficient and was very good throughout his illness, i wish he'd had her right from the start,,
I felt prompted to write this as i happened to be at the hospital on Tuesday and i saw leaflets about stomach cancer awareness that said " if you suffer with heartburn, indigestion, excessive wind or bloating, feeling full for more than 3 weeks then see your Dr,, I wish his Dr had read that leaflet 2 years ago,, we put our trust in our Drs all the time only for some people to be let down by them time and time again ,, its no wonder that some people feel very reluctant to go and visit them for fear of being given the brush off,, thanks for "listening" i needed to get thet off my chest after all this time .
My very best wishes to everyone here who is fighting or recovering from this awful disease , and to all the carers looking after others and living with the uncertainty it can bring, the stress and the worry, i've been there where some of you now find yourselves , my heart goes out to you all, it sure isn't an easy time for all concerned , the sufferer and the carer/partner or relative,, you each have your own difficulties to deal with, i wish you all strength in the days ahead .. i wouldn't have got where i am today without the love and support from all the wonderful people i've come across on this site,, it really does help knowing that others care and know how you feel...
love linda xx
Thanks for all your comments, everyone, and I'm very sorry to hear that some of you have lost loved ones. It's always really difficult when you are not being listened to by medical professionals.
Please remember that you can always call our Macmillan Support Line on freephone 0808 808 0000 (Mon-Fri, 9am-8pm) - they're there to listen if you need to talk, and the specialist nurses can give you support and information on medical issues.
If you have any questions about our organisation our Macmillan team would love to hear from you
You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or YouTube.
© Macmillan Cancer Support 2010
what are these?