Harrogate man with breast cancer in 'check it out' plea to others

Mark Hunt, walking down the catwalk.
Mark Hunt, walking down the catwalk.

In a one-piece Victorian bathing suit, complete with false moustache, Mark Hunt sashayed down a catwalk in London last week.

He was just one of two brave men who volunteered to take part in Breast Cancer Care show at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge in front of a star-studded audience.

While thousands of women applied to take part, there were virtually no male applicants.

But that's not surprising, given how rare the disease is in men. There are just 390 new cases in the UK each year, compared to nearly 55,000 in women.

When the 57-year-old senior managing director of international forensic accountancy firm FTI Consulting discovered a lump in his chest in 2015, he did what "virtually all" men do "ignore it and hope it will go away."

Months passed before the father of two, who lives near Harrogate, finally went to see his GP, on the insistence of his wife Fiona.

The doctor told him it could be breast cancer and referred him for a biopsy.

"Within eight days the results came back - it was breast cancer - and within four days I had a mastectomy and a lymphadenectomy, in which all the lymph nodes were removed," he said.

While the surgery was successful, several weeks later a second scan revealed the cancer had spread to his lungs and bones.

Mr Hunt doesn't mince his words: the cancer is "incurable and inoperable" and the drugs he is on "can only contain the cancer. They can stop it getting worse, but like any drug, its effectiveness wears off and at that point the cancer starts to take over."

With research into breast cancer rapidly advancing the chance of a new drug is a real one. But in the meantime he is determined to keep living his life as he always has.

He said: "There are two ways you can deal with it, you think about it all the time and it affects and changes your life. I've had the opposite strategy - it is not going to change one iota - apart from not playing tennis, because of the surgery.

"I play golf, ski, sail, go on holiday. Life throws out lots of things and this is just one of the things you have to deal with."

It was at an oncology session at the Sir Robert Ogden Macmillan Centre at Harrogate Hospital - where he has had "magnificent" care - where he was "almost told to apply for the show because there were no men."

"On the basis that I wanted this brilliant care to continue I broadly did what I was told to do," he adds dryly.

The experience of finding himself with a group of like-minded souls on the catwalk - he had four changes of outfit - was "absolutely brilliant."

He said: "There were 30 women who had their breasts taken off walking down the aisle in swimming suits - that's impressive.

"It was genuinely inspirational because you were with people who had such a positive view and there was huge team spirit."

Mr Hunt now intends giving up some of his time to talk to other men with the disease and raising awareness.

"If I had been fully aware of the fact that men can get breast cancer and I had found a lump where it was I would have gone straight to the doctor. We men believe we are invincible - we learn subsequently we are not."

He has told both his boys Charlie and Henry that every month they need to check for lumps.

"The other advice I would give anybody is if there is even the slightest suggestion there's something wrong go to a doctor.

"Don't do what men do and think 'just leave it a month or two and it will go away'"