About this story
In tribute of Harry Brooks who was an passionate advocate for raising awareness about men with breast cancer. Harry died in July 2023, he was happy for us to continue to share his story.
In our society, I feel there is insufficient awareness about males with breast cancer. There is also mounting judgement and stigma surrounding breast cancer being solely a ‘woman’s condition’, but breast cancer does not discriminate.
My goal is to educate others in order to reduce stigmatisation, judgement, and negativity so all men with breast cancer feel supported.
Irrespective of your occupation, whether you are a judge, prisoner, plumber, CEO, farmer, teacher, surgeon, psychologist or taxi driver, anyone can get breast cancer and there is no reason for men to feel stigmatised or embarrassed.
My name is Harry Brooks and I have stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.
This is my story:
I have ridden bikes for over 20 years, some years reaching over 12,000km. On one particular Sunday ride in 2005, I was waiting at a set of traffic lights while chatting to the other cyclists. One lady advised me she was a triathlete and I decided upon the light changing that I would keep up with her pace. I did!
When I arrived home, I found my breathing was challenged and so the following Tuesday I visited my GP for respiratory advice. However, while leaving my appointment I thought to enquire about a lump underneath my right breast and I was immediately sent to have a mammogram.
I thought ‘are you kidding me?! Men don’t get breast cancer!’ I soon found out this was far from the truth as I visited an oncologist and then began chemotherapy shortly after.
There have been a few cases of breast cancer in my family.
For approximately eight years I had annual check-ups with an oncologist, however, after being in remission I was advised I would no longer require an annual check.
Fast forward to 2018 where following a routine GP consultation, I was called back into the surgery. My GP advised my cancer had progressed to stage 4 metastatic breast cancer and that an appointment with an oncologist had been arranged.
Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer means breast cancer cells have been found in other places in my body. Since the initial oncology appointment in 2018, I have been on various medications.
Every minute of my life is precious.
This year I will be at the MCG to watch Collingwood win another grand-final…
I have been given an indication as to how long I have left, and I often wonder if I will witness another Collingwood grand-final in 2022 and 2023. As an avid competitor in athletics in my early 20s, I am also eagerly waiting to watch the Olympic Games.
If even one person reading this becomes more informed about breast cancer in men and more compassionate towards men with breast cancer, I have succeeded in my goal.
I became involved in this cause after watching A Current Affair one evening. One segment was dedicated to the upcoming Mother’s Day breast cancer walk/run. The segment and the event were dedicated to women which I felt overlooked men’s experiences with breast cancer. After contemplation, I contacted Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) and a meeting was arranged with my wife and me to discuss the unbalanced reporting, education, and awareness of men’s breast cancer.
My wife and I were pleasantly surprised at the response we received from BCNA. From that meeting, much has been arranged for the future. I am proud to contribute to the work in reducing shame, embarrassment, and stigma around men’s breast cancer.
For me, the Pink Lady is finally going to meet her Blue Man friend and I am sure they will have a wonderful long-term relationship.
A note from BCNA – This year it is estimated that 164 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Over many years men who have been diagnosed have helped shine a light on the different issues they face. It is through men like Harry who reach out to us that have helped us to provide information and support specifically for men. We know there is more to be done but please review our current resources focused for men.
How are you feeling?
If this story has raised any issues for you - please call the helpline on 1800 500 258.
Tips to ensure people in same-sex relationships have access to the right health professionals and support following a diagnosis
Let’s be upfront about death, dying and mortality.
Let’s be upfront about pain, side effects and palliative care.
Let’s be upfront about different perspectives during and beyond a breast cancer diagnosis.
Let’s be upfront about behavioural changes.
Let’s be upfront about life after cancer treatment.
*This article does not provide medical advice and is intended for informational purposes only.
Please consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you're seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.