Laura's Story

How a breakthrough in Breast Cancer Research
is saving women's lives - 

"What I didn't know then was that it was a breakthrough Breast Cancer scientist that discovered the faulty BRAC gene" -

Laura tested positive for a BRAC2 gene and shares how having a diagnosis of breast cancer has encouraged her to fund raise for valuable research for others.  

I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a Lump removed followed by chemotherapy and along the way tested positive for the faulty BRAC2 2 gene. This meant I had an 85% chance of the Cancer returning so I opted to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction at the same time.


My husband, Alan is a boxing promoter and has always had charity auctions raising money for organisations at his shows. I felt I wanted to do
something to try and make sense of everything that had happened to me and my family, at the same
time I didn't want to take anything away from the charity's we had always collected for so I asked Alan if
I could try to auction a bouquet of pink flowers at the boxing shows! I wasn't sure how it would go down
as it's quite an unusual item to auction at a boxing show the usual item would have been Mohamed Ali's
boxing glove or the like.



Unfortunately I couldn't attend the show as I was in the middle of chemo however I was amazed when Alan
came home and told me we had raised over £500. I decided to donate the money to Breakthrough Breast Cancer
as I'd seen the pink collection pots in my local M&S and I have since continued to raise money by auctioning the flowers
at each boxing show and sending some lovely friends round the crowd in the interval with collection buckets and
unbelievably I have now raised around £30.000


What I didn't know then was that it was a breakthrough Breast Cancer scientist that discovered the faulty BRAC gene.  Without that discovery and the knowledge gained I and many other women would not be surviving today. I believe that's more than coincidence! Although the journey you have to travel through treatment is difficult and long there is a life after for most of us so please grab it with both hands and enjoy every single second of it.


Laura Moltlake

 

















 

 

 

 

 

Susan's Journey

Listen to your body, it could just
save your life...


I felt a lump and was told it was just fatty tissue. I had a number of previous ops in my 20's and 30's, all benign, so accepted what he said. Lesson 1 - Listen to your body , and don't be fobbed off .

I was called for a routine mammogram in March 2012 and was called back within a week. I wasn't too fussed and didn't take notice of the bit that read I might need a biopsy. So I wasn't prepared and went alone . It wasn't a pleasant experience. 
The experience had me thinking, especially as she insisted that I bring someone to the appointment the week after . With as usual me saying "No, I will be fine " , and her being quite firm in saying I really ought to bring someone with me. This was my amber light moment , well before turning green on the cancer merry go round. Lesson 2 - Read the small print

After this the actual news was not much of a shock . And so the fun began, having all the tests and a mastectomy with 14 days of being diagnosed. I cannot fault the NHS . However , in hindsight I should have asked more questions . As to why and what other options there were available.

There was a blip when it came to me seeing the Oncologist . Apparently she was away for 3 weeks and so I was going to have to wait 6 weeks after surgery to even get an appointment.

I had already found the Macmillan site and found this a great way to talk with people who understood what I was going through physically and mentally. I did not want to worry my nearest and dearest , I couldn't cope with their worries as well ! So, I also used the Mac site to find out if I was being unreasonable , not wanting to wait so long to see the oncologist . They were so supportive and told me the NHS guidelines was that you should see the oncologist within 4 weeks of surgery. So armed with this I went into attack mode and got referred to another hospital and was seen within 2 weeks .

Now , I know it probably would not have made a difference to the end result physically but mentally I just needed to know that every last bit of the disease was eradicated ...... with no time to waste,like yesterday !!!!
I was relatively lucky with chemo, yes I lost hair, appetite and at times the will to carry on, but I did .

"What I didn't bargain for was how long it would take for me to recover"  

One big shock to me as well as others on the Mac site was obviously the sad death of Annabel. It really brought it home that this bl**dy disease was indiscriminate . This helped to create Annabel's Angels and the lasting friendships I have made since her passing,we all, the Class of 2012 clung to each other. Although initially only online, strong friendships have emerged .
It sort of made some kind of sense of it all . I feel blessed to have known each and everyone I met during those days .

What I didn't bargain for was how long it would take for me to recover .
Because with chemo you sort of got into a rhythm, the first week rotten, the second week better and the third week before the next dose, almost "normal" .
I was such a shock that it took months for me to feel even remotely better.
Because hair started to grow back , my physical strength got stronger , I could not understand how I was emotionally all over the place. People would say how much better I looked , that the worst was over
and I could start to get back to " normal".
I seriously doubted I would ever be normal again .

"Life's too damn short,
even without having
had "C" -
 

Now 3 1/2 years later I have learnt to live with the new normal .
I still, like most of the ladies, have wobbles, every time I get a twinge, ache or pain, the first thought is .... Is it the cancer ? That may always be be with me, just to a lesser degree maybe, hopefully .

But, I won't let that spoil the rest of my life. Life's too damn short, even without having had "C".

So, as the song says,'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger', and I now feel that is true.

Would I have done a 1/2 marathon before ?No way.
Would I have done so much fund raising ?Probably not.
Would I have met so many ordinary but inspirational women ?No way.
So thank you cancer for all of that.... BUT ...please stay away


 

         Susan Taber - 

Russ's Story

Cancer doesn't have a gender -
 


11218620_856452471137320_371200675714732536_n.jpg

With just 350 men a year in the UK diagnosed with breast cancer, Russ' shares his experiences of being a man in a female dominated illness
“Yes, we know its Breast Cancer, bi-lateral (that’s both sides), but we have a plan”.

That’s what I was greeted with when I went for the previous week’s biopsy results. I had half-expected something was up, but not that – not Breast Cancer, when a) I'm a man  b) Never knew of anyone else in my family having this

For the first time, I felt the blood draining from my face – hard to take
in, wasn't really listening, then off to a ‘quiet room’ where I was left to  
contemplate for a few minutes. Didn't really feel like reading the pamphlets on display. Then another chat (one-way really) with the consultant, and then outside to call my partner, Kelly. That was tough & scary at the same time - she was waiting for the call, but I didn't know how she would take it. Brilliantly, as it turned out.

So the plan – double mastectomy, 6x chemo sessions, 15x radiotherapy sessions, and all should be well. Well, by and large that’s how it was. There were some hiccups along the way; additional surgery for lymph node removal (now have lymphoedema in both legs and slight case in the arms), chemo was delayed because of the lymph removal surgery took time to heal, a few infections, but a year later and I was back at work.

                                                                 

                                                                 

The treatment from Royal Derby Hospital was faultless – every appointment was on time, staff were brilliant (think they liked having the local freak visit them J). There was obviously some interest from Junior Doctors who hadn't come in to contact with Male Breast Cancer, and I did support them with studies and answering questions – after all, if all the girls in the past who have gone through this hadn't helped the medics learn about the disease, we wouldn't be where we are now.

So as a male, what was it like? Surreal, really. Feelings of empathy towards women who have to do this, realising that it’s an emotional as well as a physical disease. But above all, I found that my inner self controlled how I appeared to others. That should be no different for males or females. Be strong-willed and it will pass. Kelly puts it perfectly – “it was just another pickle to get through”. Her support was tremendous. Our friends made sure they kept in touch, always ready to pop round or go for a beer.

So right now, after being back at work 18 months, I’m helping a dear friend get through the same thing; she’s in early treatment stages, no surgery yet, but incredibly hopeful and determined to beat it. She called me ‘her inspiration’ – it’s the absolute least I can do.

 

 

 

Ruth's Story

a young mother of two, diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer immediately after giving birth to her son. 



I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer when my little boy was 13 days old and my little girl was 16 months old. I had noticed an inverted nipple months previously but put it down to the fact that I had been pregnant while breastfeeding and so my body had gone through a lot of changes. I voiced my concern at the hospital before and after giving birth. Fortunately one of the nurses didn't give up and ensured I got an appointment at the breast centre a few days later. 
To say the diagnosis rocked our world would be an understatement. We were in shock and petrified.

"There will be tough days mentally, physically and emotionally, but be kind to yourself and keep talking" - 

It all felt very surreal. It was definitely something that happened to other people. We couldn't believe we were holding a new born and a toddler feeling completely vulnerable and uncertain about our future. I think the worst part of it was waiting for the results. Once we knew, we had to deal with it and concentrate on the next steps – treatment. 

We put a lot of our focus and energy on ensuring that our children had a stable and normal environment. We needed to protect them from our fear and pain. During the whole time, we did actually have a normal home life, with laughter and happiness. There were also days when I was scared that I wouldn't survive. It broke my heart to imagine my children growing up without their mum and having to deal with grief at such a young age. But we rationalised and focused on getting better; our children definitely encouraged us to do so. They kept us busy, sane and positive. 

I'm really proud of how our family got through this together. Having two children under two and dealing with the side effects of chemo was a struggle, but it was thinking about them that got us through each day. If anyone has to go through what we have I would say to them, ‘you can do this’. We are always petrified of the ‘C’ word but with such advancement in treatment these days, it doesn't have to be the life sentence that we associate with it. You will get through this. There will be tough days mentally, physically and emotionally, but be kind to yourself and keep talking.

Ruth - 

Sam's Story

As a young mother of three, Sam, discovered a lump in her breast whilst showering and like many didn’t even imagine it would be cancer.


I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in August 2012 after I noticed a small lump in my breast whilst showering. At first I thought it was just as a result of having a baby a year ago. I went to the doctors and I was referred to the hospital for tests. At this point I wasn't really worried as a bad thing like cancer couldn't happen to me; I thought it was probably a cyst!

After numerous scans, 2 biopsies and a mammogram, I was called in, straight away to speak to the specialist at the hospital. He called a Macmillan breast care nurse in to support the consultation. He could not say if it was cancer or not, I waited a further 2 weeks for results. I had this gut feeling I had cancer, by the way the Macmillan nurse said she was there for me and how the specialist detailed any post diagnosis treatment.

The next 2 weeks were the worst of my life!!! My mind was full of worries. Did I have Cancer? Was it was treatable? How far on it was? Was it anywhere else in my body? Will I be here next year? Playing with my children (ages 1, 4, 8) was so painful and the thought of never meeting my grandchildren one day was terrifying

When we received the results I just prayed that it was nowhere else in my body as I had read that this gave me significantly different chances of getting through it. I was told it was breast cancer and it had spread to the lymph glands under the armpit. Left any longer it would have gone
around my body.


Treatment -

Runcorn and Widnes Cancer Support were fantastic. Throughout this whole experience, I don’t think I would have been able to remain as positive as I have around my family and friends, if they hadn't been there. They offered me counselling, beauty treatments, activity classes and courses to keep me going. They even allowed us all to stay at their beautiful respite caravan in Wales, which we all thoroughly enjoyed. I feel that they have been invaluable during my treatment and recovery.
I started 8 cycles (every 3 weeks) of chemotherapy which resulted in all my hair falling out, no eyebrows/lashes, extreme tiredness and extremely low immune system. This meant that I had to stay away from work due to all of the bugs that exist in a secondary school.

A few weeks after the chemotherapy had finished I had a full mastectomy operation to remove the breast, and 15 lymph glands from the arm pit. Although I know a lot of women are severely affected by this, I was glad to finally get the cancer off me. As far as I was concerned my breast had done its job in providing for three children, no more were planned. I complained about the state of them anyway so to lose one didn't really matter to me.
Last part of this active treatment was 25 sessions of radiotherapy at Clatterbridge Hospital. I had to travel over there each weekday for five weeks


Finding Focus

During this time, I was told that the date my treatment should be finished was around the end of July 2013. There was no certainty for time frames or guarantees that the treatment would work, I desperately needed something to head for, an end date. I decided to register for the Race for Life. I was going to complete this race no matter what!!! This was my goal, this is how I knew I was going to put two fingers up to my cancer and show it I will win!

With a week left of my radiotherapy sessions, my race day finally came. With 34 family, friends and their children in tow, we completed the Race for Life. The unbelievable feeling of love and support felt on that day will stay with me forever. With everyone chanting my name, walking behind me as I crossed that line with my children in hand, I did it!!! There were tears everywhere! We all did it!!!! In total we all raised over £2000 for Cancer Research. I felt so blessed to have such great family and friends.


Where I am now 

Sam's Diamonds Women's Support

Sam's Diamonds Women's Support

I have now been told that there are no signs of cancer left for now. I will remain on Tamoxifen tablets for the next 5 – 10 years to try to help prevent it coming back. Since writing this story I have started my own support group, Sam’s Diamonds for fighters who refuse to let cancer stop them living their life. We have over 53 ladies across the Northwest who we support.

Feel free to explore our site to find out more and please share with anyone you know who would benefit

http://samsdiamonds.org.uk/

Sue's Stoy

Sue shares her experience of diagnosis and life beyond breast cancer.


"The consultant then walked in and hit me with the news" - 

My story began 3 years ago in 2012. I first noticed a small dimple in my breast. Didn't take much notice of it to begin with but a few weeks later it hadn't disappeared. It almost looked like cellulite. I went to to the GP but she couldn't feel any lumps but could see the dip I was talking about and decided to refer me for further investigation at the local hospital. We do not have any cases of cancer in my family so the thought never crossed my mind.

I was referred to Breast Clinic, and on the day I was seen by the consultant followed by a mammogram, then a scan and then consented to a biopsy. I was full of high spirits, quite amazed at how it was all done on the same day, and again had no thought of cancer. I was then told to wait to see the consultant again. I went into his room and while waiting for him to enter, the nurse was sat beside me and she began to comfort me, I was mystified, why?

The consultant then walked in and hit me with the news. We have found two very suspicious lumps. Everything after that was a blur. Being asked to get blood test, bone scans and CT scans. I was then taken to another room where I was appointed a breast care nurse. I went home dazed and confused. I was in shock I suppose, surely he wasn't trying to say I had breast cancer...was he??

A week later I was diagnosed and told I would need to have a mastectomy. I had to break the news to my children and family. Of course it was devastating news but I had no time to wallow in self-pity. I thought let’s get started with it all. My treatment started with a mastectomy, followed by chemo, followed by radiotherapy. Chemotherapy for me was the worst part but I got through it. I was very open about my diagnosis and didn't mind talking to anyone about it.

"'I've enjoyed being able to give back following my diagnosis" - 

People were and still are amazed with my strength. You just have to keep going. It's now three years on I’ve had re-constructive surgery earlier this year and am very pleased with the results. The operation isn't easy, it's a long 13 hours on the operating table and good few weeks recovering. I've another operation to uplift my other breast, followed by nipple reconstruction.

I've enjoyed being able to give back following my diagnosis, we've raised £1200 for a photo shoot. We entered Race for Life in 2014 group, as Spartanettes and raised £2277 and raced again in 2015. I am also part of Breast Cancer Now North London team. We are hoping to raise £15,000 by holding dinner dance, raffles, coffee mornings, supermarket packing and so on. 

Best of all, my life has changed with the birth of my beautiful granddaughter who has given me every reason to fight as the love is beyond anything I could imagine.

Sue - 

Gilly's Story

Breast reconstruction isn't for everyone


Gilly is the founder of Flat Friends, a fantastic online community that supports anyone  who is living without reconstruction following treatment for breast cancer

During the summer of 2012 I noticed that my right breast was popping out of my bra a little bit, but if I adjusted my bra it was fine. I couldn't feel any lumps and naked it looked quite normal, so I put it down to being pre-menopausal at 45 and basically forgot about it.

In April 2013 it was still the same and on a routine GP visit for something else I asked her to check it out. She wasn't happy so referred me to the breast clinic. Mammogram, ultrasound and a core biopsy later I was diagnosed on 2nd May 2013 with grade 3 IDC, ER+ and HER2+. With no family history, it came completely out of the blue!

I had a mastectomy and full node clearance on 15th May. I was relieved to have it cut out and although I had loved my breasts, I wasn’t mourning the loss of one of them. It tried to kill me, so it was gone, end of! I went on to have FEC chemo and Herceptin and of course the dreaded Tamoxifen!

During my treatment my surgeon had explained to me the different types of reconstruction that I could have once treatment was over. I hated being lopsided as I had E cup breasts and the prosthesis I had was heavy and uncomfortable, but going without it I was very self-conscious. I have 2 horses and walk dogs for a living and all the recon options involved lengthy recovery and a high risk of needing further surgery. I started to think about having my healthy breast removed and living flat.

"What right did they have to deny a much simpler and indeed “healthier” surgery?"

I researched the internet trying to find other ladies who had made that choice. The online forums I was a part of were all very pro recon, so I felt very alone. I finally found a group in America for ladies who had chosen not to have reconstruction. I finally felt normal and like I belonged. But the health system in America is very different to ours and the shops and things they talked about, we didn’t have. There were a few UK ladies on the group, so I decided that we needed a group over here, so I started Flat Friends. The UK ladies joined and in a year we now have nearly 300 members.

I went back and saw my surgeon once chemo finished and he agreed to remove my “healthy” breast, this was done in April 2014 and I haven’t regretted it for a minute. On talking to ladies on Flat Friends, I realised how lucky I had been for my surgeon to do a prophylactic mastectomy, it appeared that many surgeons just straight refused to do it, but would happily put ladies through extensive and risky reconstruction, this didn’t make sense to me. What right did they have to deny a much simpler and indeed “healthier” surgery?

At one of my check-ups I mentioned this to my surgeon and he was really interested in what was happening and our group. He took our issues to some researchers, SHORE-C, in Brighton. We are now in the middle of a research project to find out what patients are offered surgically after a breast cancer diagnosis and my goal is to see every breast cancer patient offered a prophylactic mastectomy as an equal option to reconstruction if they want it.

I was also lucky enough to be asked to advise EastEnders on Carol Jackson’s role as a character who had had a double mastectomy because of breast cancer. I played her body double when she faced her scars in the mirror for the first time. Lindsey Coulson and I also appeared on This Morning to promote the show and awareness for Flat Friends

Denise's Story

Life after Cancer 


For many people diagnosed with Breast Cancer complications such as Lymphoedema can really affect their quality of life. Lymphoedema is swelling that develops because of a build-up of fluid in the body’s tissues. This happens when the lymphatic system, which normally drains the fluid away, isn't working properly.


Today Denise share's her Lymphoedema Story

Being diagnosed with breast cancer was the worst day of my life in 2012. The mastectomy, axillary node clearance, chemo and radiotherapy wiped out nearly all of 2012 for me.

Never in a million years did I think I would get lymphoedema too, but two months after my operations I thought my arm felt a little strange. It was only when I was having my chemo that one of the nurses told me about their physiotherapist who could help me with my lymphoedema and axillary web syndrome (or more commonly known as cording).

There is not a lot known about these conditions but on the NHS the waiting list to see someone is now around 5 months, which is ridiculous as one thing I have learnt over the last 3 years is you have to manage both conditions and manage them well.

 


The main things that trigger my lymphoedema are:-
1. Extreme heat or cold
2. Anything repetitive
3. Travelling on a plane
4. Gardening
5. Hoovering

Things you need to avoid doing are:-
1. Lifting anything heavy with the affected arm
2. Avoid doing anything repetitive for long periods of time
3. Try not to damage the skin on this arm
4. If you get a cut put antiseptic lotion/cream on it straight away
5. Wear gloves for gardening


My daily management for this condition includes wearing compression garments for approx 20 hours a day. I wear an arm sleeve with a mitten on during the day and of a night time I wear a glove. My husband was trained to do manual drainage on my arm and we now do this twice a day. I also, after seeking specialist guidance, swim 3 days a week and do yoga to help my affected arm.

One thing I have learnt is that you can't be lazy with this condition. Daily management is best to keep it under control. Yes there are days when my arm swells up for no apparent reason and every day is like ground hog day. But I'm still smiling and enjoying every day so if you think you may be developing this condition seek help straight away.

 

Tracy's Story

I was getting ready to take my mum out for her birthday celebrations and I found the lump.


The time between finding the lump and diagnosis is a bit of a blur. By March 9th I had been diagnosed with breast cancer in my milk ducts that was oestrogen receptive. I was scheduled for a Lumpectomy, which is where they try and keep as much of your breast as possible and remove the cancerous parts. After surgery just four weeks later I had six rounds of FEC chemotherapy. FEC, is a common chemotherapy given to women with breast cancer and can make you very sick, I lost all my hair, and dropped a dress size but was determined to fight.

I wasn't going to let this stop me going to my favourite place, so in between chemo and starting 20 sessions of radiotherapy I went back to Orlando. It was already booked and I was determined to go. In hindsight it wasn't the best decision, I was exhausted, sore and miserable but I had a good time. I didn't like wearing wigs with my hair loss, and was frequently approached by people wishing you well, and restored health, which was really sweet and touching. I came home the Sunday. The Monday morning I started radiotherapy. Travelling back and forth every day, except weekends, to the hospital. I returned back at work but on light duties, I was more exhausted than ever. But still I was fighting.

"A colleague found me on the floor of the ticket office crying"

I work for London Underground as a station supervisor. Although I was going through treatment, I thought work was great. But once I finished radiotherapy I had some leave to take. On my return, however,  I was pushed straight back into full time. Early shifts, late shifts, nights. Seven straight days. Ridiculously long shifts. I lasted three weeks and I finally broke down. A colleague found me on the floor of the ticket office crying. I went to my GP and cried and didn't stop for two weeks, I was absolutely exhausted. My GP prescribed anti-depressants, which helped, but my ongoing treatment didn't. As my cancer was hormone receptive I was prescribed Tamoxifen, which made me vomit, so swapped to Anastrazole. I was also given monthly implants in my tummy to suppress periods, as Anastrazole is not recommended for pre-menopausal women.

Again work were awful. I went back and they wouldn't release me for the injections. I spoke to everyone and no one would help. My oncologist suggested that I undergo an oophorectomy, I was below 40 at the time, but I was also still fighting. Maybe having my ovaries removed was the best thing. So in 2013 I had the surgery to have them removed.

Since then my immune system has struggled a fair bit, I've had pneumonia and have also become an asthmatic. Two weeks ago I was diagnosed with arthritis in my knees all brought on by my cancer. I've ballooned in weight and I hate my picture being taken, but I'm still here. I have lost and  made some amazing friends, i’ve fought hard. And I’m still scared that it will come back. But if it does I will fight again. I am proud of myself. 

I can never repay my amazing family who helped me through it all. My mum was my rock and is my best friend, she’s helped me every step of the way. Breast cancer isn't pretty. It's not an easy cancer. But if you're one of the lucky few. You beat it and live to fight. It’s important to raise awareness, and I’m doing my part by telling this story

Denise's Story

Support 


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Without the love and support of my husband, who was with me every step of the way....telling me every day I was beautiful (even without hair), cooking me amazing power packed meals at all times of the day and night and doing all the daily jobs around the house, plus how our friends and family rallied round to help us both......I'm not sure how we would of coped.

But now 3 years on and life has changed so much.....thankfully for the better. Yes I have been left with lymphoedema in my right arm, which my husband manually drains twice a day to help manage the condition.....I also have to take the dreaded Tamoxifen, with all its side effects, to keep the C away.......but I now have a new career which is stress free, which is just perfect.

Plus if I hadn't of been ill I would never have met such inspiring women on Macmillan's chat forums many of whom I am pleased to say I am friends with to this day. Thank you ladies you were there in my darkest hours offering support, guidance and a listening ear.

I feel so lucky to be here especially as many of my friends, I have met along the way, have lost their battles to this awful disease. But every day is precious and I cherish every one of them.

 

When I heard the words "you have breast cancer" back in February 2012 you could have knocked me over with a feather. You see I don't do illness, not the serious kind anyway, so this was a total shock.

I had had a knot in my shoulder which first appeared in Oct 2011. I tried everything to get rid of it but by Jan 2012 the pain was so bad I gave in and made a GP appointment. Sadly they said they couldn't fit me in for 3 weeks, which I was not happy about. Then later that evening, at the end of January, my husband went to cuddle me and just brushed my right breast. Ouch I thought. I went to check it out in the bathroom mirror and when I called my husband, to take a look too, we both agreed we could see a lump

The following morning I phoned my GP and they got me in to see someone within the hour. The doctor, after examining me, said "prepare yourself for the worst". I thought "bloody cheek" but sadly she was right.

The next few weeks and months were a blur......right breast removed and an axillary node clearance was needed too which was then followed by 6 rounds of chemo and 25 zaps of radiotherapy.

i'm not going to lie and say it was easy or a breeze, it was far from easy, but it is do-able. I was completely de-constructed as a woman, bits fell off, some were very painful and once I did
pass a comment to my husband to say that
I thought I would be better off dead after
I had a rare reaction to one of my chemos.

Marie's Story


2012 was a year to remember - but not for the right reasons! I attended my first mammogram and was told I would be recalled, which I was, within a week. My husband came with me and I had an ultrasound and biopsies, i was then  booked in to the Breast Care Clinic a week later where I was told I had multi focal, invasive lobular breast cancer. I will always remember the date (27.04.15) as whilst I was being diagnosed my son was being rushed to A&E at another hospital (from school) as he had recently been diagnosed with heart problems,  I wasn't really listening properly! However, the Breast Care Nurses were great & always explained everything again in detail & answered any questions.

The roller coaster ride began, so many appointments and tests. A mastectomy followed in June 2012, an ANC in July 2012 and FEC-T chemo from Aug - Nov 2012. That was memorable too as we were in a restaurant trying to celebrate my birthday and the hospital kept calling trying to decide if I would start my chemo the following day. (I'd had to have a tooth extracted a few days earlier) - really not my year! I started Tamoxifen in the December but after consultation declined a radiotherapy trial but started a Metformin trial in January 2013. This really didn't agree with my system but I persevered and am still on it now.

Losing my hair was upsetting, it was coming out in clumps (not a good look) so I got my son to cut it off (we made it fun, I said it would be the only time I would give him scissors and tell him to cut off my hair). Then we shaved it. So much better. Bless him, he was 10 years old and was so helpful and understanding. My husband was my rock; how he coped with work, school runs & looking after me and everything I'll never know.


"I feel lucky to live in a country where we have the NHS"

In June 2013 three generations of my family and my BFF completed the Race for Life dressed as pink fairies, and my son and three grandsons walked alongside us too - all crossing the finishing line together. Another big day in many ways as I'd decided to go 'commando' and do without the wig from that day onwards. My lovely Dad bought me my wig as he knew how upset I was about losing my hair.

It was a long wait but I eventually got my DIEP flap reconstruction in March 2014, almost 2 years later. I had a few problems with wound infection but was pleased with the outcome. Lipo and nipple construction were done in December 2014, followed by areola tattoo in May of this year.

So, now I feel whole again. Onwards and upwards. After feeling like I was on the scrap heap I've managed to get myself a new job and life is beginning to feel more 'normal' - whatever that may be. I feel lucky to live in a country where we have a NHS, which has offered me fantastic treatment which is still ongoing.

I never had a lump, so what I will say is please do go and have a mammogram and if you notice anything out of the ordinary ( and all I had was breathlessness if I laid on my left side, which I ignored), then don't feel silly - go and have it checked out. And look at yourself; once diagnosed I could see a slight dimpling too.

Sophia's Story

 


Mum Being Diagnosed With Cancer Has Taught Me

• I'm pretty resilient - I can get through more than I imagined.
• To try and life your life as fully
• Not to worry about having a bad day
• Appreciate what you have
• How much my mum meant to me
• That it’s a lot more common that people think, and most people you speak to have someone they care about has been affected


I was studying for my A-Levels when my mum was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. My exams were a month away. I was pretty focused about getting the grades I needed to go to University and I’d planned a Gap year and wanted to use this to work and save up, and travel part of the year.

I can clearly remember when I mum told me, I had a friend staying the weekend, and we’d gone out the night before. It was Bank Holiday Weekend May 2012.

It’s hard to remember all my emotions at the time, but definitely shock, anger, and disbelief. I'd wake up and think this isn't really happening is it? My mum wasn't ill. She was physically well, how can she have cancer? I think most people think it’s not going to happen to anyone you know, especially not your mum. I did have some understanding of cancer, as my Nan had died of Leukaemia 7 years prior to my mum’s diagnosis and maybe this added to my fear. I was scared that my mum might die, and as we are a single parent family this was unimaginable. I think even though I thought this I was too frightened to open up and say this out loud to anyone in case it happened.

"I hadn't planned on filling my gap year with trips to the oncology department" -

I know some of my friends found it quite hard to be there, they feel sorry for you and they don’t know how to approach you. They struggle with knowing the right thing to say. I can understand that some people are frightened and that gets in their way of being there for you. Then other people surprise you, and you become closer. I think as I was busy trying to make sense of it, I withdrew a bit and stopped contacting people, and some people lost touch with me. I’d say the experience showed who my real friends were.

Approaching mum's first chemo I was really nervous, I had no idea how it would make her feel afterwards, and how she or I would cope. But I attended every single chemo with her. On the first one, we all slept downstairs, I'm not sure we really slept, I wanted to be there in case she was unwell in the night.

 

 

 

Chemo wasn't all bad, we’d have movie marathons and make the best of her immunity getting out and about before it dropped and we’d stay in, it was a cold winter so we had lots of hat shopping. Probably the first year ever we had Xmas shopping done early!!

We devised some interesting coping strategies and time fillers. I hadn't planned on my Gap year being spent in hospital waiting rooms, or oncology departments, but we used the time together and grew closer than even possible. My mum is more than my mum, she's my best friend and role model.

My mum uses her humour a lot, and so I remember the stages she went through to cut her hair involving both me and my younger brother in the process. During treatment we made our version of the Game of Life. It had different categories, with different daily or weekly challenges. Creative, Active, Practical, Social. We’d take times picking a challenge at random. One was making recycled art, out of old CDs and another time we went to the shop with drawn on moustaches.

"I kept telling myself  i had to be strong"

When mum was diagnosed there wasn't very much support available for young people. We looked around and couldn't find much besides Macmillan. My mum developed a blog and used an online forum, but I didn't feel blogging was right for me. I looked online for support groups or other websites or blogs written by young people and struggled to find anything.

It would be have been nice to speak to other people in the same position. There were threads for young people with cancer but not for young carers of their parents. Someone to understand how you feel and not feeling like you are burdening someone with your feelings. So I kept it to myself and got on with it. If I’d found a place I probably would have shared but there wasn't a place to share. I had to be strong, didn't have time to deal with it, and couldn't crumble as I had to be there for my mum and younger brother.

Since my mum’s illness I've still not met anyone who was in the same position I was in, I've met lots of people who have had cancer but not people whose parents have cancer.

What I'd like to share for any young person whose parent has been diagnosed with cancer is;

You’re not the only one, I know it’s hard to deal with emotions, but it’s better to deal with them openly at the time or they will catch up with you later.

You don’t have to do this alone, reach out to people who care about you, and those who really care will be there for you.

Don't worry about people that struggle with understanding, it isn't that they don’t care, it's more they can’t cope themselves or are frightened.

There are resources out there, you have to look quite hard to find them. Ask and if there isn't start your own group or blog!


Sophia- 


Alison's Story

A Changed Woman 


 

Back in the spring of 2014 I wasn't in a very good place. It was just over a year since I had finished all my treatment for breast cancer (mx, chemo and radiotherapy), it was 6 months since my mum had died of secondary breast cancer and my 21 year old daughter was battling anorexia (brought on through watching the two most important people in her life battle this disease). I was spending my life trying to return to who I was before I had breast cancer; trying to find mastectomy bras that hid the fact I had one breast, trying every hair colour under the sun to return my chemo ravaged hair back to the mousey blond it used to be, searching for eyebrow pencils and mascara to hide the fact that I now had hardly any eyebrows or lashes.....it was tiring and impossible.

"I realised I could not go back to who I was before cancer" - 

And then I received a Facebook message from a lady in my home town, who I had never met, inviting me to be part of a Calendar Girls style calendar to raise money and awareness for cancer. Of course I said 'no' I certainly didn't want to celebrate the fact I had had breast cancer. But somewhere inside a voice told me to give it a go (probably my mum!) so on a Thursday evening I showed up at a photography studio, feeling sick to the stomach and I took my clothes off in front of about 10 other women affected by cancer.....that was the start of the most amazing, crazy, life changing summer, involving photo shoots in the most extraordinary places, appearing in my bra on live TV and raising more than £12,000 for Cancer Research, meeting and making friends with some incredible ladies and sharing heaps of awareness.

I realised I could not go back to who I was before breast cancer, I didn't have to let it define me, but it is part of who I am and why I act like I do...... I
am different now! Not better or stronger or wiser just different. I don't have to be ashamed of my body or apologetic for mentioning breast cancer or hiding this part of me from everyone. So I think we don't need to try to get back to normal or who we were....we need to move on after this life changing event, embrace life , however long or short it may be. And when someone throws you a curved ball catch it....there may be a rainbow at the end of it!

=Alison

 

 

Dorothee's Story

What It Means To Be Alright


The other day I was sitting again in THAT office: my surgeon sitting behind his desk, leafing through my pile of paperwork; he closes the pages, and gives me a broad smile:” It appears to be All Good. There is nothing on your mammogram!”

It is now a little over three years ago, that I was sitting in that same office, getting the frightening News that all was obviously not well. 
I had found a lump in my breast, and with my medical knowledge, I had an idea that this may not just be a cyst…

"It was up to me to decide what it means to be alright. It was up to me to decide that a bad day of chemo wasn't all that the day held" - 

I remember the cold panic. I remember my husband taking me home, and opening his most precious bottle of wine for us – it never got drunk. 

I remember my sons’ reactions: one very composed, the other gone to pieces. And I remember speaking to my poor mum on the phone. Mum, who lives in another country; mum, who has gone through the grief of losing my dad not so long ago, through cancer. And I remember her saying: “Sweetheart, you will be all right!” – And that is what I carried with me! My mum says: I will be all right!

I know, my mum obviously didn’t have privileged information there. I know it was more her desperation and her own helplessness, which made her say those words at that time. However, she did and does believe in the amazing research and medical advancements, especially with regards to cancers like breast cancer.

There were three parts, I feel, which helped me through that year of 2012: 
There was the medical team, who I implicitly trusted, and who were so on the ball with regards to my treatment plans.
And then there was the army of friends, old and new, and family, sensitively and sensibly trying to support my fragile soul and broken mind.  But I realised there was also ME!

 

Yes, ME. Like a phoenix born out of the ashes.  I learned to see I had resilience, I had guts, I had strengths, and I had hope.

And I realised something else: it is up to me to decide what it means to ‘be all right’. It was up to me to decide that a bad day of chemo wasn't all that that day held. There was always love and laughter and Life around, too!

I guess, I am lucky that I am a ‘cup half full’ kind of girl. 
Doesn't mean I don’t recognise that the cup is also half empty. But I don’t feel myself dwelling on the dregs!  I enjoy the sunshine sparkling through its surface, and I believe I am all right.


Dorothee - 

Elaine's Story

How Do I Begin 


To quote a well know song ‘How do I begin ‘– my cancer journey started with a routine mammogram in April 2012, it was my 3rd one and I debate going as the radiographer had been so awful to me the last time but I decided to go and have it done, 10 days later I got a call back to the breast clinic at this point I honestly didn’t think anything was wrong, at that time I was a big lady with the big boobies so I assumed that it was because they needed a better picture- how wrong was I, in fact I told no-one not even my daughter about the appointment so when I turned up on the 10th May and was presented with a hospital gown and the words ‘the biopsy will be done after the mammogram’ I was stunned in fact I looked round to see who the nurse was talking to.

The staff were kind and the appointment passed in a blur, I felt fine, I hadn't felt a lump surely it was a mistake but the scan told another story, I can remember get back in my car in the pouring rain (of course) and phoning my best friend –who was out, going home intending to watch mindless TV – power cut!! , how to you tell people, what do you say, you have nothing concrete to tell them and you don’t want to be a drama queen.

The next week I'm back at the clinic –this time with a friend to be told what I think I knew – you need a full mastectomy and probably other treatment, no option it’s multi focal – how did I not know?

Still now I have a solid monster to face so what do I do? I meet a friend and have a bottle of wine, then I go to my daughters and have a bottle of wine, in fact that weekend was spent mostly enjoying several bottles of wine!!

Surgery comes and goes, no real pain but although I was a nurse for 30+ years I did find it hard to look at my scar for the first time, recovery wasn’t easy several trips to the hospital to have seromas drained, then chemo – unlike anything you can possibly imagine, I never even want to see a thin arrowroot biscuit or have SMASH again as they were the only things I could eat for 4 months still I did lose weight!

 I also had to have Herceptin but lucky no major side effects from either, the hair loss was interesting and ironically I used to colour my hair because I started going grey in my 20’s and just 3 months before I was diagnosed I asked my hairdressers what I could do if I wanted to stop colouring – her reply you will need to shave your head, ha-ha- the universe likes a laugh , I was also very lucky to have 3 ‘angels’ friends who supported me in different ways- shopping, appointments and emotional , I know my daughter found it hard and I live on my own so help from friends was vital.

For me the worst part of my treatment was the radiotherapy, I felt so vulnerable lying there, I hated every minute and was so happy when it was over in time for Christmas, it felt like a real milestone.

"I'm grateful for everyday" - 

In June 2013 I did the 5k Walk for Life with my pregnant daughter and proudly wore an Annabel’s t-shirt. What a great day!

I took Herceptin till the following October and 2 days before my last dose my daughter gave birth to a son, my amazing gorgeous grandson, who I love more than thought possible.

I’ve now had a reconstruction which was very important to me and I feel better than I have in years despite the aches and pains of approaching old age!!! 

So now 3+ years on how am I? In a word, FABULOUS – I reduced my hours at work , I lost 5.5st and became a Weight Watchers leader, I spent time with my grandson and I love life , I am grateful for everyday and very proud that I am an Annabel’s Angel , and a member of the class of 2012. We always say, the club that no one would have chosen to join.

Elaine - 

Linzi's Story

How My Children Saved My Life 


It was the last Friday of the Easter holidays, my 3 children Lola, Oscar and Eva excitedly jumped into bed for a morning cuddle I protected myself from all the flailing arms and legs I felt a lump to the side of my right breast.
Leroy my partner came in from his night shift to see me stood in a state of undress asking him to feel my breast!!!!!!
Yes, we felt a lump ...

Luckily I managed to get an appointment with my doctor that afternoon with a referral to the breast clinic on the next Monday. It seems strange looking back but I didn't worry at all over the weekend. It wouldn't be cancer, I was only 42, I'd breast fed my 3 children and there was no cancer in my family.

Monday soon came, I went to work (at the hospital!) then met Leroy at the breast unit for my appointment. I didn't wait long before I was called through for a mammogram which was relatively painless, then into another room for a scan. Oblivious to the findings I was taken into yet another room where to my surprise Leroy was already in there, accompanied by a consultant and a breast nurse, I suddenly thought SH*T this isn't good.

I was then told that the scan had shown a mass on my breast and I needed a biopsy to see if it was cancerous but whatever it was the consultant said "You need to prepare yourself for a mastectomy and possible chemo".

My mind suddenly thought of Angelina Jolie and Michelle Heaton who were all over the media as they had had preventative mastectomies, I thought or even believed that my operation consisted of the surgeon just scraping out the bad breast tissue and pop an implant in! Oh and I would be better than I was before!
But chemo....... I'll lose my hair now that was a big issue! Not the fact that I might die or the loss of my breast but MY HAIR....! I felt awful feeling that way.


I would get my results in 5 days, I can't remember much of those days only that I didn't cry and wondered why my friends and family did! For goodness sake this was happening to me not them.....

Friday came, I was given the news I had an aggressive grade 3 cancer....I needed a mastectomy and I would be having chemo.......MY HAIR.
I don't remember much else.
I was sent away with a DVD to watch and I had to make a decision by the afternoon what type of surgery I wanted, after watching it Leroy and I decided to go for a skin sparing mastectomy with a tissue expander in readiness for an implant a few months down the line.

We spoke to the children that night, with the help of a book "Mummy's Lump", we all had a cuddle on the sofa and broke the news to Lola then aged 8, Oscar 6 and Eva 5. What a horrible experience.

My operation was planned for 2 weeks later...

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As you will see from my pictures I lost all my hair, I had an amazing wig which gave me brilliant confidence. 
And here I am 2 years on, I had a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. Oh and I have my precious hair back!

In October 2015 I participated in the Fire Walk for Annabel's Angels, I felt ready to give back and help other people diagnosed with cancer. 

Lynda's Story

Cancer effects more than just your body 


I found the breast cancer lump myself. I was supporting a friend at the time who had Breast Cancer, and I suppose it was in my mind. My left breast had been feeling tight and uncomfortable, it was May 6th, 2012 Early May Bank Holiday. I examined myself and kept finding quite a big lump, the size of an average egg. That Bank Holiday was stressful as I couldn't get to the GP until the next Tuesday so I was really worried.
The following week I had a biopsy at the local hospital, which revealed a Stage 3 aggressive tumour.

My husband Jamie was very supportive, but occasionally got stressed and felt so helpless as he said he didn’t really know how to help me. He felt confused and upset. But Jamie is very practical, and any signs of things not being right, he would be on the phone to the hospital, my GP or breast care nurse. When I really wasn't coping too well, he would immediately leave work and come home.

While I was undergoing treatment I had an idea about developing a support group. I called it Bay Tree, and it gave me something to focus on whilst I was going through treatment. Actually only 6 days after diagnosis I started putting pen to paper and planning it. Bay Tree helped us both focus on the charity instead of zoning in on my issues. 
Bay Tree was successful, and women found us and spent time in our peaceful gardens.

 

 

 But eventually I suffered ‘’burn out”, trying to do too much, working and looking after myself after my treatment ended. However, Bay Tree is still Jamie’s little baby that exists on Facebook, which I think is great. Both Jamie and I work for the same disability company and we are always talking about my experiences which have helped fellow workers.

I just want to add, I have a very strong attachment to Folkestone and District MIND, and they have been extremely supportive to me, especially over the last 6 months. I almost suffered a breakdown back in May, - pressure of work, struggling with health issues, and my anxiety and depression which I sort of coped with in the past, was becoming worse because of the menopause which I was going through due to Tamoxifen. I feel that if my emotional, psychological state is good I am able to cope with my breast cancer issues tons better

-Lynda

Shelley's Story

The importance of laughter 


At the point of the secondary diagnosis, my husband, Mark, and I decided to carry out an ambition we have held for some years and that was to move to Lincolnshire and have a quieter, more rural life. Despite the shock and incredulity of my oncology team, we managed it and moved from West London to a small village in Lincolnshire in March 2015.

I am lucky enough to have Mark, who I have known since 1978 and who has stood by me through each medical crisis. I also have 2 adult children – Francesca, who is a practising Birth Doula in Bangkok where she lives with her husband and Oliver, who lives in London and does something important and complicated with computers. They have all been solidly behind me providing love, support, hugs and inappropriate jokes. I love them enormously and dread the day we will all be parted.

As for this, this is my blog. It’s about living with secondary cancer and all that entails. Please read and I hope you will find it interesting and helpful or at least, entertaining. All the bad jokes are mine.

-Shelley

 

I am a 56 year old woman living with secondary cancer. I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer in March 2012, that rarest and most aggressive of breast cancers. Often mis-diagnosed, it presents itself with redness and swelling, a change in the consistency of the breast rather than a single lump. My GP examined me and said it was not cancer but offered me the opportunity to have it checked out at the breast clinic. Fortunately I took this up and so we knew what we were handling with quite early on. My treatment regime was tough – 3 sessions of FEC, 3 of Docetaxel, a radical mastectomy with full node clearance and 25 fractions of radiotherapy together with a further 3 sessions of Docetaxel and a year of Herceptin. Despite Professor Palmieri’s best efforts, I was diagnosed with secondary cancer in the lungs in June 2014.

I am on the fourth chemotherapy since diagnosis and it seems to show some effects. A positive CT scan which showed a reduction in lesions was tempered by a prognosis of 12 to 18 months, a lot less than I was hoping for.

 

Petra's Story

The Up's and Down's of a Cancer Journey 


I found 'the lump' whilst rolling over in bed one evening and thought 'ooh, that felt weird'. It was huge and I still wonder how I didn't find it earlier in the shower, because I had been checking. Also, of course, I felt a bit exempt from breast cancer because you know all these things that make it less likely for you to get it, they applied to me. Had children young, and lots of them, breastfed them, didn't smoke or drink, and ate quite healthily. Too bad.

My first thought when I found the wretched thing was 'That's ok, I'll go wherever Ian is.' Ian was my husband who'd died of colon cancer a few years earlier. But then I thought 'Children. Oh.' And from there on 'losing' wasn't really an option any more.

The first diagnostic appointment revealed it was a 'multi focal' thing, altogether about 6 cm long and 3 wide. Thus the best option was a mastectomy, followed by chemo and radiotherapy. The diagnostician was perfect for me. No beating around the bush, plus she recognised that I had quite a bit of knowledge as I was in my last year of studying nursing. So I had a 'battle plan'.

"Don'y tell me I can't do stuff!-

Then I went to meet the surgeon, who had with him a breast care nurse. They did not like my questions and at the end of that consultation the nurse said to me: 'I know you want to keep studying, but chemo WILL take it out of you, and you WILL lose your hair!' I am not usually speechless, but on this occasion I was. Luckily this was not 'my' breast care nurse, but only holiday cover. Also it made me more determined - don't tell me I can't do stuff!

My real breast care nurse was called Josie and was lovely. Every appointment I had, she'd quiz me about procedures and risks, and side effects of drugs - it was more like a revision session. She organised a Macmillan support check for bras, and drained almost a litre off the seroma I developed after the operation. I was back in placement on a ward three weeks after the mastectomy.

The Tamoxifen I threw away after 6 - 8 weeks; I had every side effect listed, and although I could put up with the physical bits, I was so depressed that I decided I'd rather have another mastectomy, plus chemo, plus radiotherapy than go on one more day with that wretched stuff.

This sounds all matter of fact, so here's the 'emotional' bit:

Good things:

Amazing friends!!! The first thing one of my study buddies said was 'you must let us help you, so that we feel we're doing something'. People couldn't do enough for me and the family. I am a Christian, and my church were fantastic - Chemo weeks meant I didn't have to cook, but people delivered hot food to my house (we did have one week when we had 4 different lasagne's.....) and because they had got it into their heads that chemo meant no immune system, I had people come clean a couple of times a week. I could fully concentrate on studying. Uni friends came with lecture notes and caught me up - without them I wouldn't have got a BSc (Hons) First Class (I am a bit proud of that). The lecturers were fantastic, too. And as I started work, I was able to just dash off for the Herceptin or the Echocardiogram during work hours.

 

 

 

Basically, most people were totally encouraging.

Making up with the surgeon. The morning after the mastectomy he came on his ward round and drew the curtains. I said that before he did anything, he'd have to do one thing for me. He said what. I said 'smile'. He smiled, and the world lit up. It was that easy... 

Pineapple. The tastiest thing in the world ever! - Funnily, I had a real craving for pineapple for a couple of months before I found the lump. Maybe my body was trying to tell me something....

The new hair! It's lovely and curly and thick.

Not so good things:

Aforementioned breast care nurse (not Josie. Josie was fab). When I graduated I sent her an email of how she had treated me, saying that that would have left other people in tears, that she shouldn't do that to anyone else and that I had got a 1st. She then complained to my manager saying I had misappropriated NHS email (I hadn't. I had used my private email and the address she'd given me). My manager, however, was one of my supportive people.

When my hair started falling out and I was telling a friend it was falling out and she said 'really?' and put her hand in my hair and pulled out a handful. I wanted to slap her. Similarly, the first time I went to work without a headscarf, and the first patient I went to said 'that's a bit of a radical hair cut'. (Mind you, I told him why it was as it was, and it turned out his wife was really ill - not with cancer - and he was having a bad day).

Tamoxifen. I swear that was invented by the devil! What came with not taking it was an oncologist who really wanted me to have it and friends begging me to keep taking it. However, within a few weeks of having stopped it, everybody - including the oncologist - agreed that for me that was the right decision.

The fear. When I have a headache, I obviously have brain mets. When I cough for more than a day, it must be in my lungs. When I have a bit of a stomach cramp, it's ovarian. If anyone has a tip of how to stop being paranoid - please tell me!!!

"I Never accepted it as 'my' cancer" -

Where I am now: I am almost reconstructed - there's another good thing - the plastic surgeon is fabulous - tall, dark and handsome (one of my friends has a real crush on him, he's like out of a film!) AND he has a brilliant bedside manner. I chose to have a DIEP flap done, which means they take the tummy fat and make a new boob from it. So now I have a flat tummy (yay!) and a right boob that is still smaller than the left, so we will cut the left down to size in November and then I'll be all done.

Has all this changed me? Maybe. I don't know. A lot of people who have gone through similar stuff seem to be a bit obsessed by cancer. I don't want to give it that power. I never accepted it as 'my' cancer. I didn't want it in the first place, it wasn't mine and I corrected everyone who said to me 'your' cancer. On the other hand, I have been able to look after patients with cancer in a much more empathetic way. I can give them tips about pineapple and how you avoid feeling sick with an extra flush of fluids after your chemo. And that it's ok to have sad / angry / happy / quiet days.

Also, I have a lot of faith, and I don't think without God I would have done it that easily. I am nothing special - I try to get the best out of every situation and look on the positive and not dwell on the negative (which is why the Tamoxifen had to go).

-Petra

 

Melissa

We're all just human beings 


My story doesn't start with the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer it starts 3 years before when my favourite star, Kylie Minogue was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was shocked to the core that she could get it, after all she was young fit and healthy, what chance did anybody have if she could have it. The situation prompted me and my 3 sisters who are all Kylie fans, to discuss the subject and what we would do if any of us was diagnosed. I decided that I would have to have both my breast removed because if I could get cancer in one breast then surely I could get it in the other. My sisters thought I was mad. But it prompted us to check our breasts more regularly and that’s how I found my lump.

I wasn't too worried as I had had a cyst in my other breast and I was only 38. But this time the lump didn't hurt like the last one. I don’t drink or smoke and I ate a relatively healthy diet. Don’t get me wrong I love the occasional chocolate or cake but I also loved my fruit and veg. So along to the doctors I went and my GP referred me to the Breast Clinic. A day later I had an appointment for the following week. I was shocked to get an appointment so soon but still wasn't worried. Telling my children was hard but I remained positive.

The day of the mammogram I was a nervous wreck. I had been told that I should expect to be there all day because they may also do a biopsy and scan, which they did. The mammogram was fine, it didn't hurt but the position you need to get into is quite awkward. I then had to go for scan and biopsy. The doctor doing the biopsy didn’t wait for the anaesthetic to work and so I felt the first biopsy. Afterwards I went back into to see the consultant who told me that my lump was suspicious. As I walked out that room I could feel myself starting to crumble. OMG it’s suspicious, I've got cancer. My husband was waiting for me in the waiting room and once I reached him I fell apart. What was I going to do? Was I going to die? How is my family going to take it? Especially my sister Lorna whose father in law was currently fighting cancer and my 4 children.

The days and weeks until my actual diagnosis went in a blur. I kept losing my temper and every day I was on cancer websites researching cancer and talking to cancer patients. My life was about to change in a big way and I didn’t know it.
The day of my diagnosis came round and I went in to see the consultant. She just came out and said I'm sorry but you have cancer. Breast cancer. I asked what type I had and she told me Stage 2 Grade 3. They wanted to do a mastectomy on the right side followed by a reconstruction sometime later. I was also to have chemo and radiotherapy as well. I know it sounds silly but I felt relieved that I knew what was wrong because then I knew how I could deal with it, and it better have its fighting gloves on cos I was ready to fight. Telling my family was hard, I saw their world crumble. But I told them I was going to fight it.
`
The next few weeks went past quickly. I was sent for loads of tests and saw my oncologist who informed me that I would need 6 rounds of chemotherapy, 3 FEC and 3 Docetaxel. That I would need 18 rounds of radiotherapy and would also need Herceptin and Tamoxifen at a later day. She also booked me in to haven a line fitted. Soon my fight would begin. Firstly though I had a mastectomy on my left breast. I also had full lymph node removal. It didn't bother me to have my breast removed because in my eyes if the breast went so did the cancer.

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The chemo was horrendous. With the FEC I was very sick and weak and although my oncologist increased my sickness medication I was still sick with the following 2 FEC. I felt so ill. I also had to inject myself with some steroids every day for 5 days, this was going to be a big battle for me because I was needle phobic, but I managed to do it and was proud of myself. I was poorly right up to a couple of days before my next round of chemo. I truly thought I was dying. Before my second FEC my hair started falling out. My daughters were horrified. But I would sit and pull handfuls out at a time much to their horror. After a couple of days I got my husband to shave it all off. Although I was suffering a great deal I looked at the situation positively, if it was doing all this to my body what was it doing to the cancer? Although I wasn't sick with the Docetaxel (Tax) I felt very weak and had chronic diarrhoea. It was so bad they had to decrease my dose on the following 2 tax that I had.


Radiotherapy was a breeze after that. I had 18 courses of it and it did make me a bit tired and I had a slight burn on my neck but it was all easy to deal with. My toe nails also started going black and falling off.

Then I started Herceptin which I suffered no side effects from at all. I did have to stop after 6 because I became quite poorly and had very high blood pressure and pains in my joint. After some tests it was found I had high BP and an under active thyroid, so had to have medication and wait for these to settle until I could restart my next Herceptin. I also started taking Tamoxifen as well.

Before my chemo started I had a mastectomy and asked if they could remove the other breast but they said I would have to undergo a psychological evaluation first. After all my treatments they decided to remove the other breast and give me a full reconstruction. The boobs were amazing. I didn’t find losing my hair or my breasts as worrying, I managed to cope and stayed positive the whole way through. Just the thought at what the treatments were doing to the cancer kept me positive and strong.

I later developed Tamoxifen polyps and so I had a full Hysterectomy to remove any chance of me developing Cervical or Ovarian cancer. I have had all my children so felt there was no need for my womb and so had no problems with it all going.as with all my operations I ailed through with no major concerns.

In 2011 after I had had my full reconstruction and nipple procedure I decided to post a photo on Facebook. Why, you may ask. Well all though my illness I had kept all my family and friends updated through Facebook and also I was so proud of how good they looked I wanted to share them with fellow breast cancer patients. Facebook deleted my photo and also my profile. My son decided that was out of order and contacted the local paper and I had a reporter come out to do an interview. Because of the story Facebook reinstated my page but I wasn’t allowed to keep the picture. I was disappointed as I felt there was nothing rude to the picture and I had in fact seen a lot worst. My story went worldwide and I had a Canadian reporter do a story also. I had a lot of new people add me who were on my side and because of this I set up a Facebook page which now has over 1000 members , Facebook deactivates account over breast cancer tattoo. I also done a story with Take A Break followed by some radio shows and more stories for the local newspaper. The word was spreading and it was great.

I also decided to join my local breast cancer group and along with them done a lot of fundraising, beetle drives, fun day , boot fairs , jumble sales etc. but this was only for a couple of years due to a breakdown in communication. I was upset but determined to still raise money. So I continued to do boot fairs and send money to cancer charities. I joined Macmillan as a Macmillan voice and reviewed books about cancer and publications. I also joined Breakthrough which is now Breast Cancer Now. It’s through this that I am now setting up my own group for North Kent. So at the moment that is my priority. I currently braved the shave and I’m now sporting the bald look to raise money for Macmillan and Breast Cancer Now.

I’m a stronger person for having cancer and my outlook on life has definitely changed. I have made some great friends and my family have been so amazing. They have all helped me through a difficult time in my life.

-Melissa