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Dad Diagnosed With Breast Cancer After Discovering Lump While Playing With His Daughter

Dad Diagnosed With Breast Cancer After Discovering Lump While Playing With His Daughter
Phil wears pink nail varnish for the Future Dreams campaign (PA Real Life and Simon Emmett/Future Dreams)

A dad who discovered his sense of adventure after beating breast cancer in his 40s told how he is now doing everything from Latin dancing to modeling.

T-shirt designer and illustrator Phil Alderson was alerted to a lump behind his left nipple, after a nudge from his daughter Evie, as they played together during the summer holidays in 2016, caused him discomfort.

Just two weeks later, Phil became one of only 350 men in the UK to be diagnosed with breast cancer each year, compared to 55,000 women, according to Cancer Research UK.

Experiencing two whirlwind months, in which he was diagnosed, given a mastectomy and then the all clear, he felt “lucky to be alive."

“My diagnosis put things into perspective. I realized life is relatively short, so I started saying 'yes' more and pushed myself out of my comfort zone," he said.

“'Take action and do not worry about the outcome,' is an excellent mantra to live by."

Phil wears pink nail varnish for the Future Dreams campaign (PA Real Life and Simon Emmett/Future Dreams)

Phil is also campaigning with celebrities including Calum Best, for breast cancer charity Future Dreams, to raise awareness of the disease and get people to donate.

“The biggest reaction I get when people hear I've had breast cancer is, 'I didn't realize men could get it.' Ninety nine per cent of people I speak to say that," he said.

“The reason I speak out is to try and help others. If having a conversation about it can help save a man or women's life, it's worth it. I'm not ashamed to talk about it."

Phil on the Future Dreams shoot (PA Real Life and Future Dreams)

Phil, who is separated from Evie's mum, found his lump after his daughter nudged him as they played together on a Sunday morning.

“Evie elbowed me in the chest while playing and it felt weird. I then discovered a tiny pea sized lump behind my left nipple," he said.

“I'm quite pro-active and good at seeing the doctor and getting things checked, so the next day I made an appointment, and the GP referred me for breast screening."

“I wasn't worried. There was no mention of what it might be and breast cancer didn't cross my mind. I wasn't self-conscious about going to a breast screening unit either, I had no hang ups about it. I just thought, 'Let's get it checked out and go from there'."

Two weeks later, Phil had an appointment at the Wirral's Clatterbridge Hospital where he was given a “full service." Including a physical examination, mammogram, ultrasound and a biopsy.

Phil in hospital after his operation (PA Real Life Collect)

“The consultant told me I would have to wait two weeks for the results, but they thought it was cancer," he recalled.

“It was a bit how it is portrayed in a television advert, when you see someone going into a weird state. I remember focusing on the date on this piece of paper they had given me, everything else fazed out."

“They introduced me to a Macmillan cancer nurse, who took me for a cup of tea and we chatted for an hour."

Phil with his mastectomy scar (PA Real Life Collect)

“I remember thinking, 'The NHS know what they are doing. If I follow what they say it will be okay,'" he said.

“It felt more real when I had to tell people, like my partner at the time and my family. They were in shock. Thankfully, Evie kept my mind off it. She was only six then and spent most of the summer playing, so she kept me in a positive state and I couldn't dwell on it."

The biopsy confirmed that Phil had stage two breast cancer and he was booked in to have a mastectomy.

“The fact I had an early diagnosis changed everything for me," he continued.

“Straight away there was a plan in place and it felt like everything was in hand. I was really fortunate."

Phil on the Future Dreams shoot (PA Real Life and Future Dreams)

He had the lump and nipple removed, a mastectomy and the sentinel node in his armpit taken away.

His surgery at the beginning of September 2016 took place six weeks after the lump was discovered at Clatterbridge Hospital.

“I was on the women's ward, but was told I'd have my own room overnight to recover," he said.

Phil on the Future Dreams shoot (PA Real Life and Future Dreams)

“The operation was over in a couple of hours, so I was out by teatime and one of the women came up to my room and invited me to sit with them and have a cup of tea," he added.

“We were sat around in our dressing gowns, having a chat and swapping notes. It was really nice and I didn't feel out of place at all. We were all in a similar situation and were being supportive to each other."

He was inspired by the women.

“Some were having to go through chemotherapy or radiotherapy. At that stage I didn't know if I would have to have it," Phil explained.

“They were all fantastic, strong women."

A couple of weeks later, Phil was relieved to discover he would not need chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Phil on the Future Dreams shoot (PA Real Life and Future Dreams)

Instead, he was prescribed Tamoxifen, a hormone therapy which lowers the risk of early breast cancer coming back after surgery or developing in the other breast, for five years.

“The doctors weren't sure how it would affect me, because it blocks estrogen production," he said.

“Some women find their voice deepens, or they grow more hair, but I haven't noticed any side effects."

Evie (PA Real Life Collect)

“I was relieved when I found out I wasn't having chemo or radiotherapy, but I still hadn't really processed what was happening," Phil said.

“I was like, 'I'll turn up and see what they say.' I just didn't worry too much. I was posting little videos on Facebook throughout and, looking back at them, I was positive and still smiling. I think I must have been in a bit of denial."

The speed with which his cancer was dealt with also, Phil believes, made his journey easier.

“It all happened so quickly," he said. “It was eight weeks from me finding out to being told it had not spread and I would need no further treatment.

“Next year I will have been cancer free for five years and will be signed off."

Phil (PA Real Life Collect)

“I'm under observation, but officially I'm okay. I feel so lucky that they caught it early. Early diagnosis is key," he added.

Phil also had genetic testing, but did not have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations, which can increase the risk of breast cancer.

“If I had the gene, there was a 50 per cent chance my daughter would have it too, so this was very reassuring news," he said.

Phil and Evie (PA Real Life Collect)

“She will be screened from the age of 40, rather than 50, to be on the safe side," he said.

Phil's life changing experience also caused him to take stock.

“At this time, I was working in my back bedroom designing websites. I did not go out and meet people and felt quite isolated," he said.

“So, I got myself a little office in Liverpool and started to go out of my way to talk to people and to support them if they needed help."

He became an inspiration for many.

“People who had followed my journey on Facebook were messaging me saying how well I'd done and I thought, 'I have, and I need to be more positive'. This was in mid-2017 and I think I was by then really starting to process what I'd been through."

“I began to consider what my purpose was and what I'd been put on earth to do. I'm still searching, but I thought, 'I need to get out there and find out.'"

With a history in website and packaging design, Phil started running business workshops and volunteered with a charity that brings together young people with old people, to try and combat loneliness.

Then in January 2018, he saw a Facebook ad for Zebedee Management, a modeling agency aiming to increase the representation of disabled people, who were looking for a man with a mastectomy scar for a campaign.

“I sent them some photos," he said.

“I wasn't selected that time, but I kept sending pictures to remind them I was still there. Then, in July 2019, I sent them again with a 'Just reminding you I'm still here,' note and they got in touch to say a German fashion brand called Zalando wanted me to go to London for a shoot."

"They are the biggest European fashion brand and were looking for a man with a mastectomy scar, so it was very exciting. There were five of us and I would be the token bloke. I thought if it helped to raise awareness of breast cancer, it was great," he said."The people were lovely, I was dressed up and properly pampered. It was a fantastic day."

After the campaign was released last October, Phil signed with the agency going on to feature a Specsavers advert last November.

At the same time, he was learning to dance so he could take part in a Strictly Come Dancing-style event to raise money for Maggie's, a charity providing cancer support.

“At the casting for Specsavers they asked what I'd been up to lately and I told them I'd been learning to dance, so they filmed me teaching Latin dance which came across well on camera," he said.

“The casting director said I should push to get more generic modeling work, so that's what I'm doing now."

Meanwhile, with his daughter a big fan of Strictly Come Dancing, he took training for the charity event held in November 2019, seriously learning the Rumba with a professional dancer.

“We found out that Strictly's Shirley Ballas was going to be a judge for the event and that the Rumba was her favorite dance, so the pressure was on!" he laughed

“I was terrible at first, but I got better and we managed to raise £60,000 for Maggie's," he continued.

“After the event finished, I was in tears. It was so intense! I didn't win but the charity was a winner!"

Now Phil is one of the faces of a new campaign launching this month, called Let's Nail Breast Cancer, for the charity Future Dreams, alongside TV personality Calum Best and The Apprentice judge Claude Littner.

As part of the campaign, they were photographed with pink nails to try and open up the conversation about breast cancer.

“My main message is if you experience any change in your body get it checked out," Phill said.

“The earlier you catch it the better the outcome for you and for the NHS, who can save money on treatments such as chemotherapy, if it has not had chance to spread."

He hopes his story can help others get an early diagnoses.

“I might never know if I've helped someone by telling my story, but if someone came up to me in 20 years' time and said, 'I found a lump and got it checked out thanks to you,' that would be amazing," he said.

Future Dreams is a charity dedicated to raising funds for support, awareness and research for those touched by Breast Cancer.

Each year they run a campaign called Let's Nail Breast Cancer where they encourage women to paint their nails pink throughout the month of October to show their support for those touched by breast cancer.

Phil on the Future Dreams shoot (PA Real Life and Future Dreams)

“Our aim is to create an ongoing annual campaign similar to Movember in that when you see a guy with hot pink nails you automatically think of Let's Nail Breast Cancer," a spokesman for the charity said.

“This year however we are mixing things up a little and instead challenge men to paint their nails pink in solidarity with those they know who have been touched by the disease."

To join Phil or find out more head to