This is part of my story, I am still in the middle of my story.
I am a middle sister too, relevant to this story. Every one of the Surviving Voices members stories are tough, here is my story how it was/ is….
December 17th, 2015 I noticed a very little abrasion on my right breast, nothing that alarmed me as it was only the size on a lentil, a raised lump this size just appeared overnight. I was quite calm as it had just appeared, and I was sorting it out. ‘This is what my first consultant described it as being the size of a lentil’.
I called the doctors the next day on finding this and was seen immediately that afternoon with a hospital appointment 2 days later 20th December, excellent all went fast. I had a mammogram, ultrasound and a biopsy and I was relieved no cancer cells were found, inconclusive. My first consultant advised me that she believed I had duct ectasia and gave me a leaflet to read but
arranged for me to see a second consultant. I got on with life happy that it was nothing, Christmas was here, and I put this out of my mind as everyone was telling me a friend of a friend had a lump and it was nothing. Phew I had nothing to worry about!
I was recommended to see another consultant; a month had passed since noticing this change to my breast. Another appointment I had around the end of January / beginning of February 2016, same again all the tests like above no cancer cells were found. Apparently, this can happen sometimes, inconclusive again. The second consultant asked me if I wanted to see a third consultant? I thought why not, as it was still there and as the tests were inconclusive I did not feel reassured it was duct
ectasia, I would just like to know for definite what it was. I was starting to think phew I’m lucky all these tests are coming back inconclusive, so it will not be anything serious. If it was cancer they would have found it by now, all friends and family were reassuring me and 3 months had passed and I was still going to the gym so I could not be ill. I was feeling guilty for having time off work to go to these appointments and for wasting friends and family’s time to be at appointments with me, when
it was nothing serious.
I saw the third consultant in March 2016, I had no one with me this day as I was not worried that it would be anything like cancer, my consultant, the third consultant did another biopsy and ‘ hinted’ bring someone with you next week as you could be waiting a long time in that waiting room, I thought I will just bring a book!. My mum was with me the following week as we had planned to go shopping at M & S after my appointment, all a normal day we both thought. My results came back
on this day 23rd March 2016 my world fell apart, this still makes me cry thinking about it. My third consultant told me I had Breast Cancer, this was a ‘bolt out of the blue’ I never expected this, shocked, frightened and my surgeon told me he was going to offer me all the treatments, chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy; I thought this does not seem real. The nurses asked if I had anyone with me after I had received the news as I really was not expecting to be told this, I told them my Mum was in the waiting room. They asked me what my mother’s name was, I got it wrong! I was telling them my mother ‘s maiden name, they could not find her, she has been using her married name for the last 54 years! I was in total shock, devastated, could not think properly.
This is a really bad dream and I will wake up soon and everything will be normal again. My dad died of cancer at 45 years old I wondered was it my time too! I thought I have got a lot of living to do yet. I was being sick all night through shock. The following week I was told it had spread to my lymph glands, I had a feeling it had, and I thought this is not going to be easy.
I started the chemotherapy and made some great chemo friends, Emma & Vicki both amazing inspirational women. We are still friends still there for each other understanding what we are going through. We all knew what each other went through during our chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy, we talked about our coping strategies and side effects and through it all we still manage to laugh. You just aim to keep everything as normal as possible for family & friends as keeping your life as close to normal as possible. I went out shopping and for lunches even though I was advised not too after the chemo, I wondered where are all the ‘chemo people’, hence why I ended up in hospital I did not always do what I was told to do, twice had ambulances rush me in for two weeks stays in hospital, I was continuously on drips. I did not recognize myself when I saw
myself in the mirror, I was so weak.
I made some more new friends on the ward, I called them my ‘room mates’. I have stayed on every ward on 6th floor of the hospital as I had a car accident prior to this, I know lots of nurses they were fantastic with their care. Like when my hair started falling out after my 2nd chemo, Wendy the nurse hugged me when I cried, and she understood, her daughter had lost her hair. You are weak with the chemotherapy you do not always have the physical strength to cry but the sadness and fear is still
I came out of hospital and started to get stronger after my chemotherapy. My surgery was next. Myself & Emma had the same surgeon, Emma joked that he could ‘practice ‘on me first! Emma went down to theatre first! I am very grateful to my surgeon to finding my cancer and removing it. Family & friends were helping me, and I got on with the radiotherapy next, again wonderful team of radiotherapists. Every day right up until Christmas I had my radiotherapy, a year had passed since I
found this little thing the size of a lentil which grew fast and into my lymph glands too, 43mm, I believe that it was quite big tumour and it was grade 3, I also had 12 lymph glands removed which is 2 steps up, armpit to shoulder, I still cannot fully use my arm but good enough but I have clear margins and I am lucky I am here.
Next came physiotherapy and counselling, I was finding it difficult to cope emotionally; everything overwhelms you. Breast Cancer affects your mental health. One day I was at hospital having a procedure and I noticed a Ladies Fighting Breast Cancer charity stand, I met Veronica the co – founder of LFBC and we got talking. Veronica could see I had lost my hair and I showed her a photo of how I used to look, and I broke down, Veronica offered to buy me a real hair wig, this was lovely of her. My wig is amazing, but thankfully I have hair now I will probably pass it on to my younger sister as she starts chemotherapy next week. My older sister has just gone through Breast Cancer, all three of us, all within a year, crazy!
We are all now waiting for our genetics tests results, if we have the gene that will give us more things to have to deal with.
I feel sometimes I am running out of coping strategies, but we are all still here and alive. Will update you how the story continues, praying we don’t have the gene! I have more surgery due very soon, who would of thought something so small could have such an enormous impact on my life. This has made me value my time here more and accept this is not how I or my sisters planned life to be, but we still have life so let’s enjoy!
My sisters both got tested after my diagnosis for Breast Cancer. I had no pain, always check your breasts whatever age you are Breast Cancer affects women of all ages.
Any woman reading this whom notices any changes in your breasts please see your doctor immediately, it could save your life.
Yes, we are Surviving Voices, I never thought it would happen to me. Look after yourself Xx
A big thank you to my surgeon, my oncologist, all the doctors on the chemo wards, the chemo nurses, all the breast cancer nurses, the radiologists and many more nurses at the hospital whom have helped me including the lovely nurses who I still have my weekly appointments with Leslie, Ruth, Marge & thanks to Natalie on 621 who kept me smiling through the chemo.
Thank you to the ambulance teams too. We are so lucky to have an amazing NHS service and an amazing hospital. Xx
Thank you to the stranger, little old man in his 80’s whom I met in M & S in August 2015 whom came up to me randomly ‘out of the blue’ and told me I had a guardian angel who was going to be helping me through a difficult time. This was 8 months before I got diagnosed!!! I did not have Breast Cancer then & I had hair! In fact, I was buzzing with Joy as I had just bought a new car that day. I have thought about him a lot, thank you x