Cancer Survivor Robert Trafter’s Story
It is never easy dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Ever. For no one. But could you imagine being a man and being diagnosed with a cancer that is, for the most part, considered a woman’s cancer? That is what happened to Robert Trafter. And as hard as it was and continues to be, he has vowed to keep fighting.
Robert says “I found it is not easy to find help or even get help as a man with, what I call, a women disease. Everything is female biased. When I went to NYC, for the tops off event, that was the first time I had been able to talk to other men about this damn cancer. I found out I was not crazy, these men had the same kind of experiences”.
Robert continues, “This has been more like a trip from hell. In 1995 I had felt something right under my right nipple. So, the next time I had a physical I showed my doctor. He thought it was scar tissue from a service accident I had back in 1974. I had been run over while I was in the Marines. The doctor said we would keep an eye on it, and we did.
The nipple became hard over a 3 year period and in Oct of 1999 I had been at a trade show and been on the booth floor all day. The group I was with was going out for dinner and I had been in a suit all day and wanted a shower before going to dinner. I went to my room and started to undress, I was looking in the bath room mirror when I saw the blood on my tie & shirt. My nipple was bleeding and bright red. It was about 3″ around and hot to the touch. I called my wife and told her I needed to see my doctor as soon as I got back. I did and with in just a few days I was in surgery.”
At just 45 years old Robert was told he had Stage 2 breast cancer. In November 1999 he has a mastectomy of his right breast followed by chemotherapy with Adriamycin, which has been labeled “Red Devil. “I tried to act like nothing had happened . Boy was I wrong!!!!” says Robert.
He continues “I went back to work in January 2000 and everything was different. People didn’t t treat me the same, always asking how I felt or if I was okay. One day, I was asked by an upper manager if I had ever thought of suing the company I worked for at time when the cancer showed up and I said no. I explained to him I had been run over in the service and my doctors thought the cancer may have come from that.”
“In 2001 I had felt poorly. I thought I had felt a lump under on right side was getting bigger. I had told my boss and my wife, things changed again. People would say things like ‘it’s just in your head’. I had started feeling worse but still no one would listen.”
“I ended up losing my job, I could not find work with my health record, and my company had black listed me in the automotive market. Needless to say people around me turned on me and this included my wife. We lost our home in 2005 & she divorced me. We had been living off of my 401K and the money had run out. I applied for my SS disability. Long story short the word cancer has changed my life for ever!!!!!!!!”
In 2005 Robert had a recurrence and his doctors put him on more chemotherapy. He started Herceptin weekly & Tamoxifen daily. In 2006 he had surgery to remove the tumor that was still growing on his right side. He says “They removed a tumor on my ‘right mid outchest’. The tumor had wrapped around my ribs and my surgeon did not want to remove the ribs to get all of the tumor. There was a small amount of tumor left behind.”
Robert says “My cancer is still in my body and I get up each day and try not to think about it. BUT that is an impossibility. Because I can’t mow my yard and can’t take a long walk as my lungs have been affected by scar tissue from pneumonia and a fungal disease I got when I was in the hospital. I now have an active tumor in my left lung.”
In April 2014 Robert’s doctors stopped his Herceptin & Tamoxifen and started him on Kadcyla every 3 weeks. “The funny thing is I don’t want to think about it, I just live with it. But with the constant going to doctors and a treatment every three weeks and being told I will never be cancer free it is very hard not to think about it. The cancer has taken a lot of things away that miss very much.”
I always ask each cancer survivor if they have any advice, or words of wisdom to give someone who is newly diagnosed or having a hard time dealing with this disease. It’s amazing how everyone has a different piece of advice, yet they are all pertinent. Robert had 2 things to say on the subject:
* “Don’t let anyone tell you it is not going to affect you. If you’re not feeling right during your treatment or even after your treatment, do not hold it in tell your doctors and nurses.”
* “Don’t go back to work too soon. Make sure to tell your HR department you may need special help getting back to where you were before the cancer because it will set you back!!! Make sure you document any changes at work.”