Local man duels with, beats breast cancer
Survivor: 'When they say men cannot get breast cancer, that's not true'
Most associate breast cancer with only affecting women, but a local man who lives near Seligman said people should not be so quick to assume men are immune.
Veteran David Worshal, 73, a Tennessee native who lives near Seligman, said most men take their health and bodies for granted, and for him, it was no different.
But, one morning about five years ago, he noticed a lump.
"I found out one morning looking in the mirror shaving," he said. "I looked at my chest and I had a lump there. I had no pain. I called my doctor and he got me right in and sent me to Rogers to get a mammogram. The doctor did an ultrasound, also, and they confirmed there was a mass."
The diagnosis? Breast cancer.
"We both noticed it," said Charlotte Worshal, David's wife of 45 years. "He didn't want to go [to the doctor] right away, but it's a good thing he did."
"They made an appointment at a specialty VA clinic in Fayetteville, Ark., for me," Worsha said l. "They wanted to do a biopsy, but I wouldn't let them. The doctor gave me the option of chemo and radiation, or cutting it out. And I said, 'Nope, we're going to take it out and that's it.' I'm the type that, if we've got a problem, let's take care of it. I went in a month or so later, and the doctor removed it. They took off my nipple. It was from center of my chest two to three inches, and left a scar about five inches long under my arm. They took some lymph nodes under my left arm with it."
As a male, David, who previously worked for Arning, said the experience was a wake-up call for him.
"When they say men cannot get breast cancer, that's not true," he said. "The doctor said it was rare, but that men do get it. It has nothing to do with being male or female. Just because you're a man, don't think that you can't get it, because it can happen to you. You think, 'This can't happen to me,' but when the lady told me it was cancer, well, I believe it scared my wife more than it scared me."
"Getting breast cancer probably shocks women more than the guys because women have a thing about their breasts," Charlotte said in response to her husband contracting breast cancer. "And guys, well, David's more like, 'Get it out of the way so I can go on.'
"It kind of scared me [at first], but talking to the doctor made me feel better," David said. "He told me he had gotten every bit of the cancer [after the operation]. When you hear the word cancer, it blows your mind, but you can't let it get you down. I've always been the type that, you take it on the chin and walk on, because if you don't, you won't make it through."
After removing the cancer, David was given a prescription.
"They put me on cancer medicine [like a chemo pill] for the longest time," he said. "But, it made me hurt so bad all over. I felt like cancer was better than the alternative at that point. I did that for three years. They told me I had to be on it for five years. The side effects were worse than having the cancer, so I stopped. At least I had no pain or symptoms with the cancer."
David's two brothers had cancer, but not his parents, and previously, he had a bout with skin cancer. Throughout his ordeal, David felt he was in good hands.
"I had good doctors," he said. "A lot say the VA doesn't give you good treatment, but I've never had a problem with the VA. I don't even have Medicaid or Medicare. I use the VA."
Now, David has a newfound respect for women who get mammograms each year.
"Believe me, as a man, I sympathize with ladies that have mammograms, because if you think you've been hurt, you've not had nothing until you get your breast put in and they squeeze down and [as a man], you ain't got nothing to put in there anyway. So I know exactly what they go through."
The biggest change in David's life since facing down cancer is awareness.
"We all take things for granted, and us men — we're macho guys," he said. "We get a bump or a cut, we put a Band-aid on and don't tell anyone. But anymore, I try to take care of myself. If I'm out working and I get tired, I sit down. I don't push myself anymore. If you think you're immune to anything, none of us are. I just thank the good Lord that we got it taken care of and everything is OK now. I'm one of the lucky ones."
David encourages men to heed his advice.
"Just check yourself, and don't be too proud to go see a doctor," he said. "Or, better yet, talk to your wife. As a man, we don't check ourselves like that. And if you do notice something, man or woman, get to the doctor and get it checked out."
Since then, David, now retired, doesn't worry, but enjoys spending time with his family and six quarter horses, one of which, a Dun color, he plans to give to his two-year-old granddaughter, Addy.
"I'm cancer free," he said. "I go in for my checkups and I'm fine. I was very lucky to have had it and not have to worry about it again."
"My husband is a pretty tuff old coot," Charlotte said. "He's doing real good now."