Randolph Herbert: I survived breast cancer
Jody-Anne Lawrence • Lifestyle Reporter
He led an active life - a devout father and husband of four. But at the age of 65, a slight tenderness in his left breast while putting on his seat belt changed Randolph Herbert's life forever.
Like any other day, Herbert was going out to run some errands when he felt the discomfort. He initially thought that he might have hurt himself so he went home and iced it. Later that day, while playing dominoes with his friends, just the touch of his shirt caused the sensation to return. This time, when he went to ice it again, he felt a lump.
"My wife recommended that I check it out. So I went to the doctor and was advised to do an X-ray and I was recommended to a Dr Derria Cornwall," Herbert told Flair. He explained that he was not worried, as he really believed that he had somehow injured himself, and all this was just routine to see how he could obtain some relief.
"After the X-ray, Dr Cornwall told me that there was a lump and I needed to do a biopsy. Even at this point, I was not thinking that it could be cancer. I just thought that she was making sure everything was ok, so I was not worried," he recalls.
Two weeks after the biopsy, he returned for the results and was given news that seemed so far-fetched and completely unbelievable.
"She said to me, 'You have tested positive for breast cancer'. I just could not believe it," said Herbert. Initially, the news was devastating. He asked the doctor if she was certain about the results. It was not something that he was even remotely prepared to hear.
"I was one of those men that believed that breast cancer was a woman disease and even if a man was to get it, there was no way I was going to get it. I was active, I played basketball. I was healthy - breast cancer? No."
In complete shock, Herbert just walked out of the doctor's office.
"I just left her office and walked straight out. It was when we were outside that my wife reminded me that we had not even paid. I just forgot about everything. I was so shaken that she even told me that I needed to wait before I start driving because I was in no shape to drive," he recalled.
Dr Cornwall had told him it was ok to get a second opinion. However, due to her professionalism throughout the examination process, he had no reason to doubt her.
After coming to terms with the news, he had to face the disease head-on. "I initially thought of death, but after being told that we caught it early, I felt a little better," said Herbert. His family was a great support system, and his son took up the mantle of preparing for his father's treatment.
"My son, Courtney, works on Wall Street and he booked me into Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York for a second opinion and treatment. The doctor there asked for the x-rays and analysis from Dr Cornwall, and after looking on them himself, he did not see the need to do any further examination," Herbert stated. He was required to do a mastectomy.
Though he was told that the surgery would be done in one day and he would be able to leave the next, he did not consider it a minor procedure. Seeing the approximately 20 persons in the waiting room, awaiting surgery, was enough to make him very uncomfortable. He realised afterwards that his worries were unnecessary as everything went smoothly and quickly, just as the doctor had said.
"They injected me with a dye to show the affected area, and they took out the entire inside of the breast and the nipple," he explained.
After the surgery, Herbert had to do four more treatments of chemotherapy. He noted that during those treatments he lost all taste in his mouth, the flesh under his fingernails changed colour, and he started to lose his hair.
Then there were the emotional repercussions. Though he tried to be upbeat, as he lost his hair and energy, he was overcome with a feeling of loneliness. But he was never lonely because his family was always there for him.
After his chemotherapy, he was given a set a tablets that he had to take for the next five years, to prevent the cancer from returning. They explained that the side effects might be weakness and nausea, but he experienced none. Now, five years later, in August he went to New York to get a follow-up - completing a scan and blood tests.
"You can imagine how I felt waiting for those results. I did not feel sick or anything, but I did not feel sick before either. My son had to hold me up because I was so nervous. The family was there, and when I was told that I was cancer-free, screams rang out in the doctor's office," Herbert told us.
Herbert, who will be celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary with his loving wife, Patricia, next month, felt like he was on top of the world and recommends that every man who feels any pain in their chest should check it out.
He was advised to take the tablets for another five years as a preventative measure.
"I have to thank God first and foremost for keeping me alive and for a great family. My wife and my children were very supportive. If I could say one thing I will say, men if you feel a pain, get it tested. It will save you and your family a lot of pain."
Now 70, Herbert is back to his normal daily routine. He is back to playing basketball and occasionally enjoying his favourite meat - pork.
"I know I should not really eat it too much, and when the doctor told me that I had to change what I eat I said yes, because then I would say yes to anything. But I really can't give up my stewed peas with pig tail and corned pork completely," noted Herbert.
Patricia would love to keep her husband around, so she occasionally cooks his favourite as a treat, and with her support he has cut down. He has incorporated more fruits and vegetable in his diet, and is living quite content as a male breast-cancer survivor.