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.
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.