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La Jolla couple shares husband’s breast cancer story

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By Judee Sedler

We have lived in La Jolla since 1987. This past January, my husband, Carl, found a lump in his right breast and immediately went to his doctor, Leila Rhodes, M.D. on La Jolla Blvd. She swiftly set up tests for him and in February he had a mastectomy of the right breast.

Carl turned 85 years old on Oct. 12, and you’d never expect men to get this disease, plus a man at age, 84 at the time! Now, Carl is cancer free and didn’t require any radiation or chemo; he’s just on hormones for the next five years. Carl has had wonderful care by his surgeon, Dr. Cheryl Olson and his oncologist at Scripps, Dr. Sabina Wallach.

Since there is such a low percentage of men affected by this disease, I thought La Jolla Light readers might want to hear about this. I felt the need to bring more attention to breast cancer, particularly when it hits home!

Carl’s answers below to the questions:

Question: When were you diagnosed?

Answer: The middle of January 2011, I felt a lump in my right breast and mentioned to my wife, Judee. She urged me to see my primary doctor, which I did on Jan. 26. Dr. Rhodes sent me to Scripps for more tests and on Feb. 8 we received the diagnosis that it was cancer.  What a shock to us — me with breast cancer? I’m 84 years old, and have breast cancer?

When my wife originally called Scripps for the biopsy, they thought she was calling by mistake because the appointment was for a man, and she was transferred to another department for the test. She was persistent and said it was for me and I might have breast cancer, so they set the appointment for the biopsy.

The diagnosis was stage 2, receptor positive cancer, (3.7 cm mass removed.)

I’ve since turned 85 on Oct. 12.

Q: What type of treatment did you receive?

I received a mastectomy on Feb 15, 2011 on my right breast, and two lymph nodes were removed to see if the cancer had spread, and it hadn’t! I continue to see both the surgeon and oncologist and they say I’m doing great. I did not require any chemo or radiation, but I’m taking estrogen therapy for five years.

I have also had a mammogram for the left breast to be sure that cancer hasn’t affected the left breast. I have on-going visits with my surgeon and oncologist to check my progress.

Q: Was there any one person/thing/routine that served as your rock during this time? If so, please describe.

A: Yes, my wife, Judee.  She was there with me and for me every step of the way.  She was adamant that I needed to see the primary doctor pronto to see what’s going on, then scheduling my appointments, going with me, being there for my surgery, taking notes on follow-up appointments for us, and being my “nurse” at home.  She made sure I followed the routine set for me by my doctors to help with my recovery.  I would call her “Nurse Ratched,” but I appreciated her help!

We’ve been married almost 37 years and I know that she was there for me. I was back on the golf course by March 18 chipping and putting, and then soon back to my old routine of four days a week at the club. We are members at San Diego Country Club.

Q: How did this diagnosis impact your finances? Did you have any insurance struggles?

I have good medical insurance through Blue Cross as well as Medicare.  No, the insurance was wonderful and no impact on us at all.

Q: Did this diagnosis impact your work? If so, how?

Since I’ve been retired since 1985, the only affect was not being able to golf for that month. I was back chipping and putting and I’m now on the course full time.

Q: Is there anything about this experience you want people to know, that they may not know or is not commonly known?

Since breast cancer in men is at a low percentage, and not highly publicized like it is for women, my advice to men is to listen to your body, and intuition, and if you feel something strange, like the lump I found, get it checked out!  Awareness of breast cancer for men needs more publicity. Everything you read is about women.

Editor’s note:

Judee has since joined up with Susan G. Komen, and she and Terri Davis chaired a Rally for the Cure at the San Diego Country Club on Oct. 18 to raise not only funds for cancer research but awareness to men being afflicted by this disease. Fourty-four women played in the tournament wearing their pink!  “We raffled off more than 40 prizes, sold mulligans and miracle putts, and, of course, accepted checks from anyone who wanted to donate to the cause! “ she said.