Bill Monk's Story

Bill Monk

Location

Martham near Great Yarmouth

Condition

Male Breast Cancer

What happened

Bill and Christine

Breast cancer is common in women, you hear about it all the time. Breast cancer in men however, is a little less common. I went to visit Bill in Martham, near Great Yarmouth, to hear about his experience as he was keen to share it with others. This is Bill, bravely, telling me his own story:

‘I was officially diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer two years ago, on the August Bank Holiday, although I already had my suspicions of what was wrong with me. I watch a lot of medical programmes on TV so when I went to the doctors I kind of expected the diagnosis. Being a typical man I thought, “I’ll put it off, it’s my body – just leave it”. Then one day a blood vessel burst whilst I was in the bathroom at home. My wife, Christine, rang the ambulance and I was taken straight to hospital. They patched me up and discharged me then the following week I was back at the hospital for tests. I had my radiotherapy at the NNUH and the staff were brilliant.’

‘After a course of medication to shrink the tumour in my breast tissue, I had the operation to remove the tumour in July last year. Sadly, my brother in law had just recently passed away after having cancer himself and my operation was the same day as his funeral. I tried to encourage my wife to go to the funeral but she wouldn’t leave me. That made me feel so hurt and absolutely devastated for her. Christine was amazing throughout that difficult time of my treatment, even through her own brother passing away, she was my rock. I’ve always been an emotional person, but the drugs I was having to take made me feel even more emotional than usual; I kept thinking about my mother’s death when I was 13 and I just kept wanting to cry all the time.’

‘On November 1st, after I had a bout of radiotherapy I completely broke down. I’m a very private person and I don’t like people around me all the time. It was then that another patient in the hospital advised me to go down to the Big C Support & Information Centre and speak to the ladies there. Lot’s of other patients in the hospital were full of praise for them. I felt so welcome by them when I went in. I chatted with Daphne and Shirley, the centre nurses, and Jill, the centre manager, and they seemed to understand everything I was going through. I was offered massage and counselling sessions. Louise, who does the massages, is absolutely brilliant. I have arthritis so get a lot of neck and back pains, but the massages make me feel great. I’m a much happier and confident person and I put that down to the girls at the centre and Pearl, the counsellor. Until cancer happens to you or someone you love you don’t appreciate what you go through. Before I visited the centre, I felt like I was in a black hole and there was nobody to help me out. I suffered from depression in the early stages of my treatment, but the ladies at the centre, without a shadow of a doubt, helped get me out of that. They made me open up more; and after seeing the scars from my operation it was a hell of a shock for me. I don’t know how I would’ve got through that traumatic time without the help of those ladies.’

At this point Christine, Bill’s wife says; ‘’One day I came into the centre with Bill and I felt tired, I’d lost lots of weight, and Daphne said to me “You need a massage”, I said “No I’m fine”, but she insisted, “No, you’re having a massage today”! So I had a course of massages with Louise. The next time I saw Daphne she said “You see, I told you you needed a massage”! I was Bill’s carer throughout his treatment, and I looked after my mother too; you just have to do it, but you have to look after yourself too. The centre also offered me the massages and counselling, which is great.’

Bill is now recovering at home and although he has to take a mix of tablets for the next five years, and he feels very tired most of the time, he remains very positive and upbeat. This is undoubtedly helped by a very loving and understanding wife, as well the couple’s very perky Shitzsu, Benji! ‘When I came home from the hospital after my treatment, Benji looked me at as if to say “Where on earth have you been”? He sat with me all the time, curled up on the bed.’

‘I appreciate life more. Live for today, not for the future. If you want to go out and do something; do it. Appreciate what you’ve got and don’t keep things bottled up.’

Bill and Christine still visit the centre whenever they get the chance. ‘We’re always welcomed with a cup of tea and a biscuit, just as we always were’ Bill says. ‘We’ve got great friends at the centre now and I actually look forward to visiting Jill, Shirley and Daphne. I also talk to people who come in during the early stages of their diagnosis. I think, I was there once so I know what they’re going through. Sometimes it helps to talk to them.’

Bill says:’ My advice to anybody who has just been diagnosed is; Don’t be afraid to ask for help, because it can be a traumatic time for yourself and your family. Go to see the ladies at the centre, seek help from Big C, they’re absolutely brilliant, they make you feel like what you’re feeling is completely normal. We’ve learnt a heck of a lot and when you get through it it’s a lovely feeling; you think “Yes, I’ve gotten through it”.’