Sharing our stories – Lorraine Milligan tells us Blue get it too

 

“Breast Cancer isn’t just ‘pink’ #bluegetittoo and if my Campaign saves one man, or woman’s life, then I’ve found our purpose”

Lorraine Milligan Founder & Creator of #bluegetittoo photographic awareness campaign & short film ‘Men Too?’

 

Breast Cancer, a disease billed by Charities and the Media as a ‘pink’, ‘bake a cake with frosting’, ‘run a race in your bra’ kind of Cancer, just for Women? Wrong…!

 

In November 2018, at the age of 40, my partner Richard was diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer, with secondary lymph, lung and liver Cancer.

 

Richard had developed a lump under his right nipple, at the age of 11, which GP’s said was “hormonal’. The lump continued to grow and at visits to GP’s over the next 29 years, he was told “it’s nothing” and “I can categorically tell you, that will never turn to cancer!” At no point did any Doctor actually look at, or examine the lump.

 

Fast forward 30 years from when the lump first presented itself and this tall, lean, fit Marine Engineer and father of 3, was given a death sentence.

Our lives as we knew it, were ripped apart and the new life we were about to embark on, came with uncertainty, regret and anger, why wasn’t breast cancer ever considered by health care professionals?

 

There is little published documentation or commonly known facts around Male Breast Cancer in the UK and statistics show, that although it’s rarer than Breast Cancer in females (around 55,000 women in the UK) it’s still a real risk, with around 400 men in the UK being diagnosed every year.

 

Richard’s Breast Cancer is HER2 positive, which means it’s an aggressive form of Breast Cancer, which tested positive for a protein called HER2 (Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2) a mutated gene which promotes the growth of Cancer cells.

 

Treatment started immediately, with 7 rounds of Chemotherapy over 8 months, alongside a targeted antibody treatment (Herceptin) which he will have in hospital, every three weeks, for the rest of his life, plus Tamoxifen to keep the oestrogen levels suppressed. With this drug and the Cancer itself, come side effects and risk factors. At the start of September 2019 Richard developed a blood clot in his lung – I now have to inject him with an anticoagulant every day, for the rest of his life, to keep blood clots away.

The breast tumour will remain and will never be removed, as the Cancer is Metastatic. That’s something to get ones head around!

 

As a Partner, watching your loved one suffer mentally and physically is horrific and should not be dismissed or underestimated as challenging at times, it’s what I describe as ‘living with Cancer’.

With Richard’s diagnosis came depression, anxiety, panic attacks and needle phobia, for Richard a test of his strength and masculinity, dignity out of the window and the feeling of loosing all control over his life and mortality; and for me, the pain of wanting to take the hurt away from the man, now in the darkness, trapped in his own head. I have put every ounce of energy into giving him hope, support and positive affirmations. I began juggling life as a Mum to my 8 year old Son and running my own business, with being Richard’s full time care coordinator. I had to dig deep for endless patience and found kindness in abundance, but there were moments when I too wanted to scream out for help.

 

My journey with Richard, during his on going treatment, has lead me to meet some inspiring and wonderful individuals.

Female Breast Cancer patients and survivors, desperate to lend their moral support to us, we were not alone.

 

When I spoke of Richard’s diagnosis, the response I would get from people was “Male Breast Cancer?….is that a thing?”

There literally appeared to be no awareness that men could also get Breast Cancer.

My argument is, we all have two nipples, so yes, it is possible!

 

Breast Cancer is visually advertised by Charities and fund raisers as ‘pink’, that was hard to digest, particularly for a young, fit man, a with a female ‘billed’ Cancer.

Will you wear it Pink? Pink for the Cancer that’s exclusive to female’s right? Wrong, I thought, blue get it too! And there it was, that epiphany moment.

 

Finding solace in my Career as a Hair and Make-up Artist and newfound skill as a Portrait Photographer, I realised how Art provided an outlet for stress and the opportunity to use my professional artistic skills, to visually raise awareness of Male Breast Cancer.

 

I decided this was something I wanted to share with the masses.

So with my own finances, I created a Photographic Awareness Campaign of stunning artistic images ‘scars and all’. Real, raw, tasteful images of Breast Cancer heroes, united together to visually help raise awareness of Male Breast Cancer and early detection, not only aimed at the general public, but as a wake up call to GP’s.

From concept to completion, I made the whole campaign a reality and created in its entirety, #bluegetittoo and short (4 min) Film to support the Campaign and our story, entitled ‘Men Too?’

 

#bluegetittoo has gained much attention from the public and Media and brought solace to Men with Breast Cancer and Partners of Cancer heros and is a safe place for them to visit, be accepted, understood and supported. I’m flying the ‘blue flag’ for Men, uniting them with Women in this disease, that does not discriminate.

 

And personally, where are we both today?

Richard, having had to give up work, has found an outlet for his engineering mind by building to scale, from scratch, 6’ radio controlled fighter planes, a passion and hobby he had in his 20’s and 30’s and can now channel his creative side and focus away from Cancer.

And me, well my Career, family, friends and my love of helping others, brings such hope for the future for longevity for #bluegetittoo

I tell Richard, being offered treatment is a gift.

 

Your support counts, so thank you for sharing this important message for all.

 

We are parents with sons, no son, brother father or friend, no one male, or female should have to be told “you have an incurable Cancer”

 

This is Richard’s Legacy. Breast Cancer in Men is real.

Men must check their chests too, there is no shame, we are all made the same.

 

Keep checking and sharing.

Be safe, Lorraine x

 

Founder and Creator of #bluegetittoo

 

To view, support and share the awareness campaign and film ‘Men Too?’ please visit

Facebook: @bluegetittoo

You Tube: Men Too? https://youtu.be/G1wnGstz78Y

Instagram: @lorrainemilliganmua_imaging

www.lorrainemilligan.co.uk/bluegetittoo

 

 

 


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