Glenview man writes of breast cancer battle
I Have WHAT???: One Man’s Journey Through Breast Cancer
New book by Richard Wiener, available at richwiener.com
$10 plus $3 shipping and handling; Kindle edition available at amazon.com for $3.99
Wiener will donate 20 percent of price of each book sold to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation
Updated: October 31, 2012 12:29PM
Watching his second wife slowly deteriorate from Stage 4 breast cancer was unspeakably painful for Glenview’s Richard Wiener.
He saw blisters lining her throat making it hard for her to swallow. He watched her loose teeth, heard her cry out in her sleep, “I don’t want to die.”
But never did Wiener, 66, think that his living through his wife’s brutal illness and death in 2007 would help save his life years down the line.
Yet that’s exactly what happened.
Last February while taking a shower, Wiener noticed a hard, marble-size lump next to his left nipple. He knew it was something that shouldn’t be there. He was right.
A needle biopsy revealed male breast cancer. A week after finding the lump, Wiener was discussing his treatment options with his deceased wife’s former oncologist, Dr. Jacob Bitran, at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.
When Wiener got the diagnosis, he was shocked. “I couldn’t believe that I could possibly at that time possibly could have breast cancer,” he said.
For enabling him to see the signs of his own breast cancer, Wiener thanks his late wife Lynn Wiener, “because I was so knowledgeable in the subject and I knew right away what was happening.”
Breast cancer strikes about one in eight women (or 12 percent) at some point during their lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society. The disease also affects men, but much less frequently. For example, a man has a one in 1,000 chance of developing breast cancer in his lifetime.
In order to educate other men about male breast cancer and provide some “therapy” for himself, Wiener, a former athletic coach at Von Steuben High School in Albany Park, wrote a book, I Have WHAT???: One Man’s Journey Through Breast Cancer.
Written in a journal format, the book documents Wiener’s experience, from discovering it, through getting a mastectomy and undergoing chemotherapy.
After the mastectomy, surgeons categorized his cancer as stage 2. While it had spread to two lymph nodes, doctors said the cancer was “treatable and curable,” he writes in his book. The road to recovery, however, was anything but easy.
Going through chemotherapy is like “the worst flu you’ve had multiply it times ten,” Wiener said.
As doctors predicted, Wiener’s hair fell out exactly 17 days after starting the chemotherapy. He had headaches, pains in his knees and ankles, and difficulty falling asleep at night.
Then there was the all-encompassing fatigue, at times severe. Once, for example, when his friends took him out to dinner, he was so exhausted he could not walk from the car to the restaurant.
As good as it is chemotherapy is as a cancer treatment, it’s a poison in your body and destroys the good as well as the bad, Wiener said. “Nobody knows what it feels like to go through chemo unless you’ve done it.”
Today, Wiener feels pretty much back to normal. A “Celebration of Life” party is in the works for mid-November. “It’s better than a funeral, but it’s just a way of saying thank you to people for helping me out and, you know, for the well wishes and the calls,” Wiener says.
For Wiener attitude is everything. You cannot live in the past, he says, and you have to keep moving forward.
“The good thing is I’m here to talk about it.”