He realized he was sick after taking a hard hit to his nipple while playing pickleball

He realized he was sick after taking a hard hit to his nipple while playing pickleball

By Mackenzie Tatanani for Dailymail.Com

21:52 26 November 2023, updated 22:07 26 November 2023

  • Ronald Norman, 76, initially assumed the black-and-blue mass was just a bruise
  • The former university professor was shocked to learn that he had stage 2-3 breast cancer
  • He encourages other men to check their breasts regularly and have suspicious lumps checked by a doctor



A retired college professor was horrified to learn he had breast cancer, and received the diagnosis only after he injured his nipple during a game of pickleball.

Ronald Norman, 76, wrote an op-ed in the San Diego Union-Tribune about his discovery that he was part of the roughly 1 in 1,000 men who develop the disease.

The former coach, who taught at San Diego State University and Grossmont College before settling in Del Sur, Calif., was playing baseball in June 2022 when his opponent hit the ball in his right chest.

Norman “doubled over” as the hit knocked the wind out of him, describing the impact as “probably the hardest hit I’ve ever taken while playing pickleball for over 12 years.” However, he managed to restart the match.

A few weeks later, the 76-year-old noticed a black and blue lump behind his nipple and assumed it was just a bruise. Over the next few weeks, the discoloration disappeared but the lump remained.

Ronald Norman, 76, wrote an op-ed sharing his traumatic experience after being diagnosed with male breast cancer
The retired professor (pictured with his wife Karalee) only learned of the cancer after being punched in the chest during a pickleball game
The 76-year-old assumed the black and blue lump on his right nipple was just a bruise, but when the lump remained in place, he went to a nurse practitioner and learned it was a lump.

That September, Norman sought a nurse practitioner. She took one look at him and said, “That doesn’t look good; “I am ordering a mammogram because it could be breast cancer,” he wrote.

The former professor was appalled. ‘What? breast cancer? I? impossible! There is no real history of cancer in my family tree.

But he went for a mammogram and got the official diagnosis – male breast cancer.

An echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to create images, was ordered, with lymph nodes in Norman’s right armpit visible. A positron emission tomography (PET) scan highlighted not only the cancerous mound, but at least three of the nodes.

His diagnosis was raised to stage 2 to 3 breast cancer.

“If I had reacted faster, I may have caught the cancer before it spread to my lymph nodes,” Norman wrote. But playing “If Only” or “Why Me?” The game was not helpful. Staying positive and being willing to look for corrective actions was the best strategy.

After speaking with doctors and loved ones, Norman opted for an “alternative, more natural” treatment method, and saw the tumor shrink after four months.

He regularly received infusions of small amounts of chemotherapy tailored to the blood test and did not experience any of the traditional side effects of chemotherapy.

A positron emission tomography (PET) scan revealed that the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes in the right armpit, and the diagnosis was raised to stage II to III breast cancer.
Norman has undergone a large number of treatments including the use of estrogen blockers. His body produced higher than normal levels of the hormone for years, which could cause cancer
He encourages other men to check their breasts regularly and report any suspicious lumps to their doctor, warning: “You want to detect them as soon as possible.”

‘I thought everything was going well. “Unfortunately, once the program ended, the tumor was still there,” Norman wrote.

He was eventually forced to undergo a mastectomy to remove his right breast and cancerous lymph nodes in his armpit.

This was followed by eight rounds of chemotherapy over 16 weeks, then six weeks of radiation five days a week.

For five years after that, he was told that he would have to take a drug that blocks estrogen, because his body was producing more estrogen than usual, which may have been the source of the breast cancer.

Norman has since completed eight rounds of chemotherapy and was waiting to start radiotherapy, a treatment that kills cells using high-energy beams.

Symptoms of breast cancer in men

  • A painless lump or thickening of the skin on the chest
  • Chest skin changes (peeling, wrinkling, flaking, or color changes)
  • Nipple changes (colouring or scaling)
  • A nipple that begins to turn inward
  • Discharge or bleeding from the nipple

“Fortunately, most of the side effects of chemotherapy were avoided except for sore tongue, partial numbness in my fingers/toes, no fingerprints, hair loss (I didn’t have much anyway!) and continued limited or no energy.” Written by the retired professor.

“For me, these are short-term sacrifices for the potential for long-term future health. What has made the difference for me has been the amazing support group of family and friends throughout my journey.

While mammograms are an annual option, Norman encourages men to check their chests several times throughout the year.

“If you feel something lumpy, definitely get it checked out by your primary care doctor,” he urged.

“It may be nothing, a cyst, or it could be the ‘big C,’ and if it’s the ‘big C,’ you want to detect it as soon as possible.”

According to the American Cancer Society, the risk of developing breast cancer in men is about 1 in 833.

Scientists do not yet fully understand the causes of breast cancer in men, but they have identified several factors that may increase the risk. Many factors are related to the levels of sex hormones in the body.

Aging is also an important element, as the risks increase as a man gets older. On average, men with breast cancer are about 72 years old when they are diagnosed.

The risk of breast cancer increases if other family members (blood relatives) have had breast cancer. About 1 in 5 men with breast cancer have a close relative, male or female, with the disease.

Other factors that may increase the risk include heavy drinking (possibly due to alcohol’s effect on the liver, which balances sex hormone levels), obesity, and exposure to radiation.

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