x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

One of breast cancer's hidden victims - a man - tells his story

Dubai expatriate Richard Weilers is among the one per cent of male breast cancer cases worldwide.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, October 03, 2012. Richard Weilers who was diagnosed with an extremely rare case of male breast cancer. (ANTONIE ROBERTSON / The National)
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, October 03, 2012. Richard Weilers who was diagnosed with an extremely rare case of male breast cancer. (ANTONIE ROBERTSON / The National)

DUBAI // When Richard Weilers first felt a lump on the right side of his chest, he had no idea that he was among the 1 per cent of breast cancer patients who are male.

The avid trainer first thought he might have injured himself while working out, but in June last year when the lump had been there for two months he decided to have it examined.

"I went to my general practitioner and had an ultrasound done," the 61-year-old said. "They discovered I had some form of growth and booked me with a general surgeon."

The surgeon performed a biopsy and told him there was no irregular cellular activity but advised him to have the lump removed for cosmetic reasons.

After the tumour was sent to another laboratory for further tests, however, Mr Weilers was told it was cancerous. "Doctors told me the surgeon didn't leave a clean enough margin to clear all the cancer cells," he said. "I knew I was in trouble."

Margin is the area around the tumour taken to ensure there are no cancerous cells left.

The South African business manager was at a crossroads. "I didn't know whether I should go back home or seek treatment in Dubai."

After some research and meeting a specialist breast surgeon who was trained in the UK, Mr Weilers felt he was in the right hands.

The surgeon cleared the margin and, 28 sessions of chemotherapy later, Mr Weilers had recovered.

He kept positive throughout the treatment and is now back at the gym two or three times a week.

"When my family first found out and said they would visit, I told them I'm still too young for them to see me in my pyjamas in the hospital," he said.

"I told them they could come see me when I'm better." It was a life-changing experience for Mr Weilers.

"One of the scariest thing any individual can go through is any form of cancer," he said. "You go through many personal emotions.

"I went from the glass half empty to glass half full. It made me realise how much I can cope with and that keeping a positive attitude is very important when facing any challenge in life."

Mr Weilers is concerned there is no specialised licensing process for breast surgeons in the UAE. He believes extra credentials give patients more confidence.

"What this experience taught me, which is very important for everyone, is to always ask questions and get an alternative point of view," he said.

"I would feel much more comfortable and would be reassured if I knew I was in capable hands."

mismail@thenational.ae