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‘I didn’t know breast cancer was a thing among men’

TREATMENT: Dr Olu Taiwo underwent a mastectomy to beat breast cancer, in addition to chemotherapy and some radiotherapy, as well as visiting his local Breast Cancer Haven centre
for support

DR OLU Taiwo leads a lifestyle that can only be described as remarkably healthy. Between being a husband, a dad and lecturing at the University of Winchester, Olu eats well and follows a strict exercise routine.

For more than 30 years he has ensured that he practices bas- ketball, t’ai chi ch’uan, yoga and meditation on a regular basis.

Yet in early 2018, shortly after booking a check-up for a painless lump on his chest, Olu was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The diagnosis came as a total shock – not only had he done all the right things to stay reasonably healthy, he’d never considered that, as a man, he could develop breast cancer.

TAKING CONTROL

“My first thoughts were about my wife and two children - this was certainly going to impact their lives. Once the doctors explained the treatment I would need - six courses of chemotherapy, a mastectomy and radiotherapy – I immediately got to work learning the science behind all of the drugs and procedures that were on offer.

“I was determined to take control of the situation so that I could make the right decisions for me and my family.” It wasn’t long before Olu began chemotherapy.

This is when he noticed that the nausea he was expecting only presented itself when he took a break from his disciplined t’ai chi ch’uan and yoga exercise routines. He had exercised in this way for more than three decades, but it was still very uncommon for it to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy in this way - his doctors were unable to explain how the tumour had reduced so quickly, but were pleasantly surprised about how this was happening.

This meant Olu only had four and a half cycles of his chemotherapy course before the operation.

FORMING A PARTNERSHIP AT BREAST CANCER HAVEN

After coping with the unpleasant side-effects of chemotherapy, mastectomy and radiotherapy, Olu visited Breast Cancer Haven for some additional support after a friend recommended the local Wessex centre; all of which went hand in hand with his existing exercise routine.

At Breast Cancer Haven, Olu was given a free personalised programme of support which in- cluded reiki, nutritional therapy and acupuncture. “I can’t stress how amazing the staff were at Breast Cancer Haven. As a man, I felt really welcomed, understood and listened to, even though so few men experience breast cancer.

“I feel like I formed a real partnership with the therapist that helped me at the centre – it wasn’t just me being looked after by them, we worked together on my therapy.”

THE IMPLICATIONS OF A MASTECTOMY

Shortly after his radiotherapy, Olu found it was also interesting to meet fellow visitors at the centre and learn about their own experience of breast cancer. “I felt physically incomplete because I’d lost a part of my body.

“Yet, for the women that I met at Breast Cancer Haven that had also had a mastectomy, the implications were bigger: many felt they had lost a part of their identity and their confidence. This gave me a bigger perspective on how breast cancer can affect people differently.”

‘NEW HEALTHY NORMAL’

“Society doesn’t let you move on easily. I’ve realised that part of recovery is acknowledging and accepting what happened. My lifestyle of regular exercise, paired with the support I got at Breast Cancer Haven, has also helped me to keep active.”

It’s common for people to worry about the future after breast cancer, and whether it will return, but Olu is determined not to let this happen. Instead, he’s eager to continue a happy and healthy lifestyle with his family, and is grateful to Breast Cancer Haven for helping him to focus on a ‘new healthy normal’ for himself post-treatment.

If you’re affected by breast cancer and need support, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Register for free breast cancer support at your local Breast Cancer Haven centre today.

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