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Updated 25 October 2018

‘I’m a man and I survived breast cancer – this is my story’

Many men may think breast cancer is a disease only women should look out for, but this survivor's story shows how this illness does not discriminate.

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In June 2013, the National Director at Legal Resources Centre, Nersan Govender's life changed when he was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Speaking to DRUM, the 56-year-old said that there's a stigma around breast cancer which is that it's a women's disease, but in reality, men also have breast tissues and can get breast cancer too.

This is his story:

"It was about five years ago and I discovered a pimple under my left nipple. I had no pain, nothing at all. I was energetic so you wouldn't tell. That's the thing about breast cancer even with women, you don’t really know it.

"So, what I discovered was a pimple and I thought it would go away. I went to the chemist and got an ointment, but the pimple never went away. It just started growing and eventually I went to an outpatient health facility and I was told that I have to go have a biopsy done.

"I had a biopsy done and that's when I discovered I had breast cancer, and that it was spreading rapidly. With breast cancer for men, there are not many survivors simply because they don’t know and they don't check.

Treatment challenges

"So, I went for the surgery, I went for the radiation, then I went through chemotherapy – it was a difficult time for my family and me. The treatment was for about 10 months. It was very hard — the treatment is actually harder than the cancer itself.

"Sometimes you just want to give up. This is when I discovered support groups. Wings of Hope was a group I discovered and it was still new. They helped me through difficult times and as I started to heal, I joined them as a volunteer.

"Today I head the organisation. I re-positioned it because support is not only about talking about treatment, but it's about quality of life. 

A new kind of normal

"We try to teach people to have the quality of life and to value every single day, but also try to extend it to the families, because the families need to understand that they add stress when they say you need to be normal, but you can't be normal. You will be a new normal.

"There were some days where I prayed to die, because during the treatment you're alive, but you feel dead. I've watched some people die in less then a week from chemo. 

"Today I can proudly say that I am a breast cancer survivor. I have two birthdays now — the day I was biologically born and the day I got given a new life."

This year Nersan celebrates his first remission. He lives by the motto, "Live your life every day."

 
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