Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Man Boobs

Will the fun never end?  I'm not sure I've spelled this out completely so I want to make sure you all understand something before I continue:  I am a man.  I was born a male and I'm still a male.  I was diagnosed with testicular cancer in June of 2010 and have had various surgeries and treatments for this disease, but none of this changes the fact that I am a man.

People, today I had a mammogram and a sonogram.

About a month after chemo ended and I started to feel a lot more like myself, I also started to experience numerous small pains and issues.  The worst of these which I've had for going on 2 months is a pins & needles like pain in the bottoms of my feet (heels mostly) including numbness.  But rather than catalog them all just take my word for it, I've got lots of pains and discomforts which are going to last a while.

This is probably a good time to give a nod to the good folks at, specifically the support forums over there.  I never posted, but lurked in the forums often to see if others had experienced any of the same crazy symptoms I've had (or continue to have) throughout my cancer treatment.  This was (and continues to be) an invaluable source for me, and I suspect for most men who have had testicular cancer.

Anyway, I won't catalog all of my issues today but I'll tell you about the one that developed about two weeks ago.  My left breast, just under the nipple, started feeling sore.  Mostly to the touch, I'd notice it when Julie would put her head on my chest as we laid down to go to sleep.  A few days of soreness and I was able to feel a lump/bump under the nipple.  Pain, lumps, and bumps are the kind of thing that make a cancer survivor turn pale with fear.

So off to the internet I went searching the forums at and sure enough several post-chemo patients had experienced the same thing.  Most seemed to think (or their doctors seemed to think) it was related to low testosterone and a symptom of Gynecomastia (look it up folks, then shake your head with pity for me) and that it would get worse, clear up on its own, or require a testosterone gel.

Well I was hoping it would get better, but after a week or so it was still bothering me so I called my oncologist but there were not appointments available for a few weeks, so instead I made an appointment with my general practitioner.   That appointment was this afternoon and I went through the catalog of pains with him (the ones I'm sparing you from having to hear about) and he wasn't worried about any of them (his diagnosis matched that of the folks who had experienced similar issues and wrote into the forums at which was comforting, also I'll stop plugging the site now) except the pain in my breast.  And that's when he told me "I'm sorry to say this, but you'll have to get a mammogram.

There is a breast-radiology office in the same building as my GP, so I went down there with my order and entered a waiting room filled with women, then walked up to the counter and announced to the check in nurse that I needed to have a mammogram (please see the first paragraph).  Not much later I was in a small, private waiting room wearing my suit pants and an open-in-the-front medical gown.

The nurse giving me the mammogram was very nice, the mammogram on the other hand was not.  I could use more muscle in my chest, no doubt, but I do not have boobs so she really had to work to get what I do have into the pancake flattening machine.  Two images for each boob (even though the right wasn't hurting, they looked at both), squeezing from the top & bottom first, then side to side.

After that I had a sonogram on the left breast by the doctor, which only took seconds before the doc told me I was fine and it was nothing to worry about, just some kind of tissue build up that was of zero concern.  Julie was in the waiting room when I came out, I didn't have her come to this appointment (not expecting much to happen) but texted her when the word "mammogram" was first mentioned.

Back to my GP we went, relieved obviously, where my GP told me I almost certainly did not have Gynecomastia (if you didn't look it up yet, that's "man boobs").  Nonetheless he took some blood to check my testosterone levels as well as my thyroid.

So there you have it, another crazy, humiliating, and yet somehow comforting day in the life of a testicular cancer survivor.