Only one out of every 1,000 people diagnosed with diagnosed with cancer is male, according to breastcancer.org.
Allen Sneed is one of these men, and he defied all odds when he overcame an affliction that has claimed many lives.
Sneed, like most men, didn’t know that men were even susceptible to breast cancer until it happened to him.
“I wear glasses when I read and anytime I didn’t wear them I had a habit of sticking them in my shirt pocket every time I took them off,” Sneed said. “Somewhere around the first of 2009 when I put my glasses in my pocket, when it rubbed across my nipple, it would hurt.”
Sneed didn’t think much of the pain at first; just assuming that he had bruised himself at some point. But the pain continued and one day the pain led Sneed to investigate it further.
“I took off my t-shirt and looked and my nipple had started oozing some kind of fluid,” Sneed said. ‘’It was probably three weeks or close to a month of pain before I noticed the oozing.”
Sneed immediately made an appointment with his doctor. After an examination his doctor quickly referred him to the breast clinic to see a specialist.
“They did all the stuff they do to the ladies, and they had me go back out and sit down and wait,” Sneed said. “It wasn’t long before they called me again and they wanted me to do that test again.”
On January 9, 2009 Sneed’s specialist informed him that he had breast cancer and that they were going to schedule a mastectomy as quickly as possible. The earliest they could arrange was for the middle of February.
Leading up to the surgery Sneed decided to go on a cruise to the Bahamas that he had already scheduled before being diagnosed. He only told his wife about his diagnosis.
“I went on the cruise with a lot of friends and a lot of Yadkin County people,” Sneed said. “I didn’t tell anybody because I didn’t want anybody feeling sorry for me.”
When Sneed returned he struggled with dealing with the news of his cancer. His church had recently lost its pastor, and he yearned for a spiritual leader to lean on.
“It’s a soul-searching time when something like that happens,” Sneed said. “I had made the comment at church that I needed a minister for the first time in my life to the degree that I was needing him and I didn’t have one.”
Sneed shared his diagnosis with a female pastor that was filling in for his church. He told her that he would be going in for surgery on the Sunday before he was scheduled. He asked her to pray for him.
The pastor agreed and in the middle of her sermon stepped down from the pulpit and shared what he had told her with the congregation.
“She had everyone come up and shake hands with me,” Sneed said. “Everyone in the church came up and wished me well and told me they hoped I got along OK.”
The following Tuesday Sneed was being prepped for surgery. He was not aware what was happening in the wait area outside.
“There were 36 people that came and sat with my wife and son,” Sneed said, holding back tears. “Eight of those people were ministers.”
Sneed’s surgery was complicated by the fact that he had a pacemaker. Doctors had to adjust the settings to his pacemaker and scheduled those changes to last for five hours.
Surgery began and doctors quickly realized how aggressive Sneed’s cancer was. After performing a mastectomy, doctors had to removed 19 lymph nodes from his left chest and shoulder. They knew there was more cancer that needed to be removed, but they were limited to five hours in surgery and were forced to close him up.
The next day Sneed requested that his doctor be honest with him on his chances on surviving the cancer. His doctor admitted that Sneed’s chances were not good simply because he was a man with breast cancer, but he reassured Sneed that they were going to do everything they could to get him through it.
“When I came home I had some healing time from the operations before we did the chemo,” Sneed said. “I had made myself a promise. Your body needs to be as strong to undergo everything that you’re going to have to undergo as you can possibly keep your body strong. I knew because my mom had been through this stuff. She couldn’t even stand to be around food because the smell, the taste, the thought of it just made her sick.
“I made up my mind and talked to myself mentally that I wasn’t going to get that way. If my wife brought me something to eat or I was anywhere I could get something to eat then I was going to eat regardless of how it tasted because I knew it was good for me and I wanted to keep my body as strong as it could be.”
On the first day of Sneed’s chemo he weighed 189 pounds.
Sneed endured chemo for four and a half months, spending seven or eight hours at a time being pumped with the drug.
Close to the end of his chemo treatments Sneed’s doctor called him in to ask him for permission to try a new, stronger type of chemo.
“She didn’t want to give it to me until she let me know how it was going to affect me,” Sneed said. “She told me it would affect below my knees and my feet, my fingers, my ears and it does even now. She told me that I would lose all of my fingernails and I did.”
Once Sneed finished this stronger dose of chemo he was weighed once more and he still weighed 189 pounds. He had not lost an ounce.
After chemo was finished Sneed moved on to radiation treatments. After three rounds of radiation his doctors all decided that they should perform a scan to see what progress had been made.
The scan results showed two of the cancers that were on previous scans were completely gone and on the third one that was still active had shrunk in size. She assured Sneed that she knew where it was and that she was going to get it.
“I didn’t know what she had in mind but I found out,” Sneed said. “She tattooed me exactly where the spot was and then she proceeded to go ahead and line me up for the next radiation. It was so strong.
“It didn’t bother my front part of my body but it went entirely through my body and at my left shoulder blade there was a blister in about a four-inch circle. It didn’t hurt; it was just like a bad sunburn but my wife worked on it for every day.”
Sneed said he knew his cancer was gone after that procedure was done. Unfortunately insurance would not approve another scan that quickly, and he had to wait patiently until he could receive another.
“The radiation part stopped and I was in limbo with nothing happening but they got me lined up to get another PET scan,” Sneed said. “On the eighth day of February 2010 I was down to see my doctor and I knew I would more than likely get the results of that PET scan.”
Sneed was right.
“She came in the office and I was on that little bed and she walked in with her hand straight up in the air and she told me these words: ‘you do not have cancer, you are one of God’s miracles.’ I told her that I knew it and I had felt it,” Sneed said.
Throughout Sneed’s journey he attended a support group that took place once monthly at the hospital. The group was called “Good Friday” and Sneed received his results on a meeting day.
“They all knew I had cancer and so I told them that I had just come from my doctor and got the results of my PET scan and she told me the results were that I had no cancer left in my body and I said that I wished every one of them to be that fortunate,” Sneed said.
At that same meeting they had a drawing for door prizes and Sneed won a stuffed snowman, which he appropriately named Lucky.
“I had him wrapped up in my arms and I wouldn’t let him out of my sight,” Sneed said. ‘I’d put him around my neck and hold on to his feet and people looked at me like I was crazy. I was happy and I guess that was a way that I could show my family that I was happy.”
Sneed said that once he was cancer free he made it his goal to thank everyone who had prayed for him. He visited churches that had him on their prayer lists.
“I went to a lot of churches so they could see God’s handiwork because they were praying for me,” Sneed said. “It’s got to help you if you’re praying for something and you can see that come true. It happens every day.”
He knew he would never be able to speak to everyone who had said a prayer for him so Sneed decided to take out an ad in The Yadkin Ripple letting people know how appreciative he was.
Now Sneed takes every opportunity to share his story with people so that others will be more aware. He maintains that his recovery would never have been possible without his faith in God and that he didn’t beat the cancer, God did.
“You’ve got to have faith in God, you’ve got to have faith in your own self that you’re going to do the best you can with the situation that you’ve got,” Sneed said.
He encourages everyone to remember the power of prayer and the effect that it can have.
“The way I looked at this to start with is God can hear one prayer come up from one individual and he’s going to hear it and he’s going to listen to it but when he starts hearing dozens and dozens of prayers coming and taking his time he’s going to put a little extra effort in it I think,” Sneed said.
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at email@example.com.