By Victoria Hansenvhansen@abcnews4.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- His baby face is noticeable now without the beard. There's a slight smile, but there is plenty of anxiety as Raymond Johnson is wheeled down a long hallway into an operating room.
This is the day he thought would never come. "This is a really, really good day," said Johnson.
The 26-year-old would know. He has endured a six-month string of bad days, as he battled breast cancer.
"When you see me next, I will hopefully be cancer free," he said.
Raymond's nails are black from months of chemotherapy. Some of his fingers have gone numb. Most of his hair is gone, including his eyebrows.
But he's grateful for the potentially toxic concoction that has eaten away at the once baseball size tumor in his breast. It is now small enough to be removed.
"The problem with male breast cancer is right now there isn't enough research on what to do with them," said Dr. Jennifer Beatty.
She's been with Raymond since his diagnosis.
"And so I treated him as a woman, he has breast cancer. It's a female dominated disease, so I felt that was appropriate to do since we didn't have enough information on male breast cancer."
Dr. Beatty performed a double mastectomy early Thursday morning, preserving as much of Raymond's tissue as possible. She knows as soon she's done, a plastic surgeon will move in.
"And that was our goal with him, just to make a 26-year-old look pretty normal," she said.
Life has been anything but normal for Raymond Johnson this past year. He had no health insurance when he was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. He applied for help through a federal program for breast cancer patients. But the way it is written, it only applies to women.
Raymond's story outraged many, and quickly made national news. The federal program did not change to include men, but it did bend, allowing coverage for Raymond.
"I mean the bills are coming in, but it's not as big as it would be. So, I'm really blessed and proud about that," he said.
Now after several hours of surgery, Raymond can count another blessing.
"He is cancer free today. His tumor is removed and his lymph nodes look great," said Dr. Beatty.
Raymond will still need to undergo radiation to make sure the cancer doesn't come back. But he is well on his way to recovery.
"He's gonna change this country for male breast cancer I believe," said Dr. Beatty. "He already has people asking him to come up and fly out to New York and to D.C. to change policies."