Jennifer’s Cancer Journey
I would like to say Living Proof Cancer Warriors is an awesome foundation.
My huband lost his job in March 2020 due to the COVID pandemic. I was then diagnosed on July 8, 2020 with breast cancer and subsequently had a double mastectomy on August 21, 2020. We got behind on our rent and did not know what to do.
Someone in my neighbordhood told me about Living Proof Cancer Warriors. They are a blessing and an angel in disguise. Not only did they help with my rent, but when I started my radiation they helped with my deductible so I could get started. So not only do I want to say thank you to Ms. Trisha for all you have done, but also to the donors and sponsors as well. Without you and your generosity, people like me would not know what to do.
Galen’s Cancer Journey
In March of 2020, at about the same time the COVID-19 pandemic started, I felt a small bump on my chest. I didn’t think much about it, as I had an abscess before and thought the doctors and hospital were overwhelmed, so I let it go. COVID also caused work to slow down where we went from having 20 employees to only 4. This made it difficult to get time off and I ignored the bump. In December 2020, I woke in the middle of the night with chest pain and shortness of breath and since I had experienced a heart attack before, I rushed to the ER. When I got there, they ran several tests and scans found that I was not having a heart attack but had mass on my chest. I told them that I had an abscess before, so they sent me on my way with antibiotics. I was advised I needed to get my own doctor asap, so she referred me to a specialist. I was done at the ER about 5am, and was scheduled as the opening manager at 6am, so off to work I went (as the good employee I am LOL). At about 9am the other manager showed up to work, called me to the office, and told me some bad news, that our division had just been sold to our main competition and the sale would finalize on December 31st. Talk about a double whammy in one day! I had found a lump and maybe lost a job in one day. Later in the day we were advised that they were keeping all the employees, especially myself, since I had prior work experience with them. The new company also meant new insurance, so that would mean a doctor visit would have to wait. I advised my new boss and HR department of the lump on my chest and they were very supportive and reassured me my new insurance would start quickly. They advised that since it may be cancer I would have to wait two pay periods to start claims, of which I am uncertain why that was the case.
So, the end of January rolls around and as I am making my doctor’s appointment I find out the other manager now has COVID. I had to push my appointment by two weeks only to be diagnosed with COVID myself, which meant I had to wait another two weeks. The craziness continues for 2021. I come into work, then my General Manager and office girl come down with COVID. They go out and then the Texas Freeze shuts down basically everything for another three weeks.
It is now April 1st and I finally get to see my PCP. She refers me to Solis where they perform a mammogram and subsequent sonogram that reveals two masses – one my chest and one under arm. They tell me I will have to return for a sonogram biopsy. The results come back as IDC breast cancer with a likelihood of it being Stage 3 Cancer! Both my dad and sister died of cancer so I saw their painful and slow death. The amount of crazy thoughts that went through my head, along with not wanting to go through what they did swirled in my head.
In less than 10 minutes, Brandy, my Nurse Navigator called me. She explained her role in helping cancer patients navigate through the craziness of cancer treatments, explain what is happening and aid in finding the right doctors, charities, other resources, and the craziness of insurance (which I don’t think anyone can do!) I told her I did not think I was going to treatments after what my dad and sister went through. After a long talk, I told her my family history, about my son and his family and their future. She guided me through my thought processes and together we made an appointment with a surgical oncologist, Dr. M. Umar Butt. (I know the jokes are coming). Brandy helped me get my head on right, I knew God had sent here to be my guardian angel!
As my son and I arrive at my appointment we are cracking jokes about the Dr’s name and he walks in cracking his own jokes. It was at this moment I felt at ease and I knew that I could trust this Doctor to get me through this. So, when a man can make fun of own name, he’s okay in my books. So, he lets me know he has a solid plan for my treatment from start to finish which also helps my mental health. I was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer on the left side. We decided to do a double mastectomy because male breast cancer spreads easily to the other side. I had my surgery May 6th and it went well with no complications. The only thing was bruising. It looks like I got run over by a Mac truck. I was in hospital for two days afterward then stayed at my brothers for another 4 days before I went home and got back my passion of photography. I took advantage of the down time to edit past photo shoots, scan and edit my dad’s old slides and do a lot more shoots since I was off work for my 9 to 5 job. My doctor installed a chemo port 4 weeks post surgery so I could start my chemo, which was about 20 treatments, the first four were every other week and the last 16 were every week. I was very lucky that the only two side effects were loss of hair at about day 16 of chemo and swelling of the legs after treatment 11. My chemo doctor is Dr. Nwitzu (the “n “is silent).
Brandy assisted me during my chemo journey in finding Living Proof Cancer Warriors while I was still undergoing my chemo treatment in May of 2021. They assisted me with my out of pocket medical expenses and bills until I could get back on my feet again. They also provided me with a mentor, nutritional advice and encouragement to live a healthier lifestyle.
This is a little more about me – I was number 9 out of 10 children, with my youngest brother dying within a couple of months from birth defects. There were 8 boys – David, Dick (who wants to be called Richard now), Darrel, Don, Dennis, Doug, myself – Galen Dean and Daniel) and 2 girls – Bonnie and Becky. I really feel like I grew up by myself as my 4 oldest siblings were off in the military and 9 years older than me. I always wondered why I was the only boy that didn’t have a name that began with the letter ‘D’, although my middle name did. My parents were deeply religious people so when I asked why, they always said it was God’s plan. The name Galen in Greek means ‘Healer’, associated with a second-century physician that was considered to be the founding father of medicine. Now, fifty years later, I think it has a new – Life. Maybe God told them to name me Galen because God knew that I would be on the cancer journey I am now. I believe now that my mission in life is not only to pass the word about male cancer, but also about men’s health in general. Men are so stubborn, do not like going to doctor’s in general and usually wait until it’s really bad or even worse, too late.
I have been lucky. The hospital PR department has helped me spread the word, by doing a press release which caught the eye of several news outlets. So far, the Dallas Morning News has done a story, Local news/ podcast on radio, two local TV and regional TV stations (CBS 11, NBC 5), Spectrum news and Medical City McKinney’s YouTube channel. So, this allowed me to get my message out that men can have breast cancer too and that more people are aware of this possibility.
This is just the beginning of my journey, and I hope to be able to update as I go along. This is not a sprint, but a long marathon. I have to travel fear thousands of yards down this road where there will be much more to go. I hope to bring you along with me.
Godspeed ~ Galen