Yorkshire Post

‘My mind went blank on hear­ing that word, I couldn’t even speak’

A man tells why he dis­missed a lump in his chest be­cause he did not be­lieve men could get breast can­cer. Ruby Kitchen re­ports.


I’m still fight­ing. I just want other men to know the risks.

Am­rik Rhall, who was di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer.

IT WAS a tiny lump, no big­ger than a pea, but Leeds fa­ther Am­rik Rhall hadn’t known that men could get breast can­cer.

Dis­miss­ing it as a cyst, he had car­ried on with his day. Were it not for his fam­ily’s in­sis­tence, Mr Rhall ad­mits, he might not be here today.

They had bul­lied him into sub­mis­sion, pick­ing up the phone to make that first call. Eigh­teen months on, and with a 1in tu­mour re­moved, he is so very grate­ful that they did.

“They prob­a­bly saved my life,” said the 50-year-old from Mean­wood, Leeds. “If they hadn’t forced me into mak­ing that first doc­tor’s ap­point­ment, I would al­most cer­tainly have left it.

“I’m just glad they did. You’ve got to check, and you’ve got to pick the phone up and make that call, if you’re wor­ried.

“It’s just a tiny chance it could be can­cer, but un­for­tu­nately

I was that one per cent. I’m com­ing out the other side, I’m still fight­ing. I just want other men to know the risks.”

It was May last year when Mr Rhall’s girl­friend Shirelle Hinds had no­ticed the lump, near his left nip­ple. Know­ing how stub­born he was, she had called his sis­ter for help.

Later that same day, when Mr Rhall ar­rived at his par­ents’ house, his sis­ter was wait­ing to am­bush him.

“‘What’s this about a lump then?’” she had asked, and Mr Rhall, re­signed, had agreed to meet with doc­tors, un­der­go­ing a mam­mo­gram, ul­tra­sound and biopsy.

A week later, in a quiet room at Har­ro­gate District Hos­pi­tal, a sur­geon had bro­ken the news.

“They sat me down and said ‘you’ve got can­cer’. Just like that. I nearly fainted, fell off the chair. I’d never heard of breast can­cer in men. I didn’t know any­thing about can­cer at all.

“My mind just went blank, on hear­ing that word. They asked if I had any ques­tions, but I couldn’t even speak.”

The sur­geon, ac­com­pa­nied by a MacMil­lan nurse, had ex­plained that the can­cer had been caught very early, at stage one, with a very strong chance of re­cov­ery.

“He was be­ing pos­i­tive,” said Mr Rhall. “I couldn’t re­ally take it in. The sur­geon just said ‘don’t worry, I’ve got this’. I was right down, but he brought me half­way back up.”

Mr Rhall was to have the tu­mour re­moved in day surgery, wak­ing to find the sur­geon peek­ing into his room.

“He put his head round the door and winked at me, say­ing ‘I told you I had this’. I could have hugged the man.”

Mr Rhall, although still in re­cov­ery, looks the pic­ture of good health. The former fork­lift truck driver will take a tablet ev­ery day for five years, and has a check up ev­ery June.

There is still sup­port, firstly from the Sir Robert Ogden MacMil­lan Cen­tre in Har­ro­gate, then from the Breast Can­cer Haven char­ity in Leeds.

Sit­ting in the char­ity’s wait­ing room, he had been acutely aware that he was the only man there. It was later to emerge that he was the first man to walk through its doors.

In March, when he stepped onto the cat­walk at the char­ity’s fash­ion show fundraiser, he was to be blown away by the cheers of sup­port.

“Pick up the phone, make the ap­point­ment,” he says today. “I could feel it, there was a lump, not much big­ger than a frozen pea.

“I just thought it was a cyst, it wasn’t ir­ri­tat­ing me or bug­ging me. But I was scared, I was fright­ened.

“It could have been a cyst, it could have been noth­ing, or it could have been can­cer. I got the worst news. But on the other hand, it was caught early.

“I just want men to check more reg­u­larly. It can hap­pen. The hard­est thing is pick­ing up the phone to make that doc­tor’s ap­point­ment.

“But if you don’t, it could be too late, and you may have just months. The main thing is to catch it early.”

Pro­fes­sor Stephen John­ston, con­sul­tant med­i­cal on­col­o­gist and a trus­tee of Walk the Walk said: “Sim­i­lar to breast can­cer di­ag­no­sis in women, if de­tected early it is a very treat­able and cur­able disease in men.

“Although rare it is im­por­tant to spread the word that men can get breast can­cer too, and should ‘check their chest’.”

 ?? PIC­TURE: BRUCE ROLLINSON ?? ‘CATCH IT EARLY’: Am­rik Rhall is urg­ing men to visit a doc­tor if they sus­pect they have a breast lump.
PIC­TURE: BRUCE ROLLINSON ‘CATCH IT EARLY’: Am­rik Rhall is urg­ing men to visit a doc­tor if they sus­pect they have a breast lump.

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