When Meningie sheep shearer Ashley Mason felt a lump in his breast, he joked to his wife about it being breast cancer.
Little did he know he was about to receive life-changing news that in fact, he did have breast cancer.
Back in 2012, Ashley felt a small lump on the right side of his nipple and he initially thought it was caused from his labourintensive job. Luckily, he didn’t ignore the warning signs and decided to get it checked, which ultimately saved his life.
He was sent by his GP to Adelaide for an ultrasound and biopsy which confirmed the father-of-two had an aggressive form of breast cancer at 52 years old.
“I was quite dumbfounded at first. My doctor rang on a Saturday morning and I thought it must be bad for her to ring on the weekend,” Ashley said.
“Before I knew it, I was in surgery at Burnside Hospital having a full mastectomy and thankfully, my surgeon was confident he got everything.
“My doctor said if I’d ignored the lump and left it unchecked, I would have been in serious trouble.”
As his cancer was detected early, Ashley didn’t need chemotherapy or radiotherapy, but he was on daily medication and after five years, he got the news he was all clear.
“I was back to normal living for a while which was nice.”
However, in 2020 Ashley felt pulling in his arm and a lump under his arm on the same side. So once again, he was vigilant and got it checked straight away.
“My GP sent me for an ultrasound straight away and unfortunately the scans showed nine tumours around my body including my spine, pelvis and breast.”
Thanks to medical research, Ashley was prescribed a new form of oral chemotherapy that had only been approved 12 months prior.
“I was having scans every three months when I started taking the medication and initially, my tumours began shrinking and stabilising, which was such a relief,” Ashley said.
Although now the tumours have stabilised after shrinking down to half their size, Ashley still remains positive and continues to ‘soldier on’.
Breaking Down Stereotypes
In Australia, about 1 in 700 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Although it’s not as common as women, Ashley wants to raise awareness that men can also be diagnosed.
“Men absolutely can get breast cancer and I’m proof of that,” Ashley said.
“I want to continue raising awareness and also encourage men to have regular medical check ups. Every workmate I’ve spoken to has asked why I went to the doctor because they wouldn’t have.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female. We’re not bulletproof.
“Due to my young age, the aggressiveness of the growth and lack of family history, I went through the genetic testing and nothing was picked up. This has taught me that if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.”
Giving Back to Research that Saved His Life
Ashley is grateful the oral chemotherapy is working and knows it’s thanks to research advancements. He now gives back by raising funds for ABCR.
Ashley runs a popular outdoor barbecue at Meningie Football Club, called Frog’s Bar, where he donates $5 from every sale of stubby holders to ABCR.
“Researchers are coming up with new treatments all the time. Five or six years ago I wouldn’t have had the choice to take this medication that is extending my life – that’s why I raise funds,” Ashley said.
“I will continue raising funds and spreading awareness for men to prioritise their health and go to the doctor if something doesn’t feel right for as long as I can.”