This is the final post for the module and in it I want to showcase as well as discuss my final piece, make a final statement on everything as well as give more insight on the case of David McCallion, who, if you’re not familiar with the name, is the person who I made my zine about. More specifically, an experience of his which was documented in several articles among a good batch of news sites that chose to cover it. On February of 2020, several articles surfaced on the web, one of which I happened to stumble upon quite accidentally while unsuspectingly watching a reddit readings video on YouTube in the Summer of that year. Most of the things I hear on these readings usually go over my head, some of it I subconsciously erase from my memory the moment the narrator moves on to the next post, however, this one stuck out – made me pause, roll the clip back and listen to it again. It went as follows:
Dad with breast cancer refused access to online support groups ‘because he’s a man’– The Mirror (mirror.co.uk)
I had to listen to it a few times again to really take in what I had just heard, it was unlike anything I have heard before and to be honest, I had never heard of “male breast cancer” before this very instance. I went off YouTube to look into it a bit further and a single google search was all it took for me to be met with the fact that men are also able to develop breast cancer. The reason male breast cancer is not commonly talked about is because it makes up merely a single percent of annual cases worldwide.
I read up some more about David’s case in particular on other news sites as it had really sparked my interest. I felt awful reading through these reports of this poor man being refused any kind of access to support groups due to the single fact he was not the usual patient – i.e. – he is male. The thing that made it all the more sad was the fact that the pandemic had just really taken off at that point and knowing how isolation had affected everyone mentally, I could not bare the thought of how difficult it must have been for David.
Months pass and I’m here at UWE Bristol, slowly moving towards getting a degree in illustration. The first module passes and we are introduced to the next one – the Professional Practice module. Much like the first one, it included a brief – a project that we are supposed to do for the module in order to pass it. The brief requires us to pick out an article from any of the 10 given topics and illustrate it. I looked through the list of possible topics and none of them really caught my eye – I’m awful at politics and economy, a lot of people had already chosen environment, I do not even remember the rest – however, one stuck out – “Health”. I immediately remembered David’s case and right off the back, I knew that it was what I would be going for.
At first, I struggled a lot with figuring out the approach I wanted to take, as you can see in my Sketches and Development post, the concepts were all over the place and it was kind of tricky to get out of that state. I remember my first tutorial came around and I got the opportunity to show my concepts to a professional. A lot of the advice I was given would later benefit me greatly, however, being greenlit from the very beginning would also become one of the biggest detriments throughout this process. Having received positive critiques on a good chunk of my aimless concept sketches I felt like I was going in the right direction, therefore I kind of forgot to look around and explore other possibilities. I went in that direction until I eventually hit a wall and it held me back more than one could ever wish for. It got to a point where I had given up on the module before it could even get started for real. I took a 2 week break, it was awful, I did not get anything done, I was struggling with developing concepts and ideas, everything was just going bad. Then, with some advising, I sat back, breathed in and out and got my things together. I sat down to work on the project again, promised myself to not get upset regardless of the turnout for the day and it was really tedious at first but then I made a small doodle that really got me thinking and alas, the idea for “Wiped out” was born.
I searched for the articles again, read through them thoroughly and it was making a lot more sense now, I now understood what David’s aim was. He did not want to be pitied, he did not want to be seen as a victim, all he wanted to do was spread awareness about male breast cancer as he was going through it himself and had he known about the possibility, he could have been more cautious, noticed some of the symptoms, possibly could have even avoided it developing as far as it did.
Having acquired that new sense of understanding I continued working on the ideas for “Wiped out” and it was just coming naturally to me at that point, I knew what I wanted to say, or rather, I now had a better idea of what David McCallion was saying. I now got the sense of responsibility of taking David’s words and carrying them out further for him, working as some kind of echo.
The progress of creating the zine really took off only 2 weeks ago, that was really when I started to feel the fire toasting up my pants due to the deadline coming closer at an alarming rate. By that point I had fully snapped out of that horrid state and was working every day towards finishing the project. Then, on the 9th of January (literally just a little more than a week ago) it finally dawned on me that I had the possibility to reach out to David himself. I had his full name, all I needed to do was do a quick Facebook search and I would possibly be able to connect, so, without hesitation, I did exactly that. For some reason, I did not have much hope, especially with how close the deadline was, it was a shot in the dark but boy was it a bullseye.
In the evening of the 10th of January, I was on my Messenger app and I realized that at the top corner, there was David’s profile icon, which meant that he had accepted my friend request. I immediately got down to messaging, again, with not too much hope as a) it was rather late already and b) I did not know whether or not he would comply in working with me. Fortunately, David McCallion was very willing to help out and before I go any further into it, I would just like to make a statement of gratitude and to take the time out of the day to thank him. I think when it comes to personal stories and personal experiences, a personal statement from the person who was involved in/affected by the happening is truly the most valuable piece of information in documenting it and David really came through for me in that sense. I truly appreciate the help, insight, advice and the opportunity to get to know the person behind the story – it is simply invaluable. Thank you.
One of the first things David shared with me was the fact that some of the articles had slightly exaggerated the story and made it so that it was more about the struggle rather than raising awareness. Knowing the press, I was not surprised. For a moment, I thought “oh no, I relied quite heavily on the article with this project, does this mean that it has just lust a big chunk of credibility?”, but then, I realized I could easily walk around that obstacle and do the story some justice. I feel while the zine did feature symbolism of exclusion or alienation, it was still catering more to the idea of spreading awareness.
The VMU will be a designated safe space hosted by men, for men, once a month. The meet-ups, which will be free for attendees, will be peer-led and hosted by male breast cancer ‘thrivers’.
David McCallion has been involved with the Walk the Walk campaign (launched by Tory Burch) for nearly a year now, he has gotten his story out there and is hoping that more men will join the cause and examine themselves more thoroughly and regularly.
Pick a day of the month – it could be a birthday or pay day – but pick a number and check your body once a month on that day, feel your chest, look at your body and examine it properly.Quote of David’s taken from the article on Mirror.co.uk that covered his story.
He also urges men to speak up about their health, be it in the GP’s office, to a friend or a family member. There should be no shame in talking about your health, regardless whether it may be physical, emotional or mental, it is important to speak up just as it is important to listen to those speaking on the matter. Regardless of gender. Regardless of anything.
Finding out I had breast cancer as a man came as quite a shock. Seeking support was vital to me, as I needed to learn to cope with this and turn such a negative into a positive. 18 months since diagnosis I’ve moved forward, I’m part of an inaugural Virtual Meet Up for men who have had or have breast cancer. A place where we can talk, vent and support each other through the darkness that cancer brings with it. Men have breasts too, check your chest as regularly as you would your testicles. Report any changes to a doctor, react to changes immediately, don’t be an ostrich, as a man – take control of your health and never be embarrassed to talk about it. There are too many men in graveyards wishing they had been more open about their health issues..David’s response when asked if he could provide me with a statement on his experience as well as what men should take away from his story.
It is no doubt that men and health is a very complicated combination. With all of these bizarre norms of what a “real man” should be, many write off their feelings and their physical state as nothing while it could potentially evolve into something as life-changing as in the case of David and other men who have shared the same fate.
Members of the male breast cancer community are criminally misrepresented. The fact I only found out about the existence of male breast cancer at the age of 19 is evident enough, question is, did you know about it before reading this post? I doubt it. Take the time to take after yourself. Inform those around you. Talk. Listen. Support. That is the least and simultaneously the most one can do. This is not something new, it has been around since the beginning of time, men had breasts back then too, nothing has changed, but one thing is for certain, it is definitely not too late to speak up on the matter, to spread the word and to spread awareness.
This project has really opened my eyes to something new, I am honestly so happy I went with this case. It was a major learning experience that poses the possibility of becoming something greater than just that – an opportunity for other people to learn about a potential threat hiding in plain sight.
In this half of the post I will be showcasing the final piece – the zine “Wiped out”
A link to an online flip-through preview: https://www.flipsnack.com/quilapinrt/wiper-out.html
In case of an error occuring whilst previewing, here are all the zine pages:
“A Call For Help”
“Tangled in a Net of Misconceptions”
“Pushed Over The Edge”
“Yes, They DO”
“I’m Not a Man Living in a “Pink World””
“I’m Now a Woman Living in a “Blue Shell””
“Above All Else, I am a PERSON”
“After The Storm”
The zine poses as a sort of documentation for both the case and my personal journey of understanding it. Some of it may feel like it was exaggerated but that’s only because at that point in time I had a more narrow understanding of what the message truly was, but with time and each passing spread, I feel like I got closer and closer to doing justice for the story. I really wish I would have reached out to David sooner, maybe then it could have been more respectable and on-point throughout the entire zine.
However, I feel as though it is a fine piece of representation for the community nonetheless. There is no knowing what the other several hundred of men annually go through. Maybe some of them would be able to relate with all of it, some – partially and some – not at all. I think that as long as this gets the conversation going, it has served its purpose, it has achieved what David said he wishes the story would do.
If given the opportunity to rework this in the future, I will now know who to reach out to, who to talk it through, where to turn and what to do. I came into the module not knowing anything about male breast cancer, I finished it having made connections, having learned about it more than I ever had before and that is something that I value immensely.
I would appreciate if you, as the reader, could take something away from this post – inform your closest ones, spread the word, even if you just tell 5 men about this, it is bound to make at least somewhat of a difference.
Sketches and development, explanations on some of the spreads: https://robiccup.wordpress.com/2020/12/06/sketches-and-development/