My Breast Cancer story begins in June 2015. Like most people you think that cancer is something other people get not yourself. So, when I went for a routine mammogram on 4th June & got the results to say it was all clear on 11th June I was relieved but it was the result I expected! However, 3 days later when showering I felt a lump! I was at work that day so put it to the back of my mind but made an appointment with my GP for a couple of weeks later. My GP was as surprised as I was that the lump was there following the original mammogram but referred me to the Nightingale Centre for a biopsy. My GP did say she thought it may be a cyst so I felt reassured that all would be well, so much so that I turned up at the Nightingale Centre on 22nd July on my own expecting I would be in and out in no time! During the biopsy I sensed all was not well as I was told there were signs of unusual cells around the lump. That was the start of my breast cancer story……..!
Seven days later I was back at the Nightingale Centre being told of my breast cancer diagnosis – and even though I was expecting the diagnosis following comments at the biopsy - it was still a moment that you never forget yet it seemed so surreal & I felt that the Consultant must have been talking to someone else in the room! One of my first thoughts was “I can’t have cancer I have so many things I want to do!”
Initial diagnosis was that I would need a lumpectomy and sentinel lymph node biopsy and if all was clear radiotherapy would follow. The op took place on 11 August and 2 weeks later (all results seemed to be 2 weeks later) I was told the lumpectomy had gone well but one of the lymph nodes was cancerous so it was another op on 15 September for left axillary node clearance and an MRI scan at Wythenshawe. Fortunately, the results of both were clear but the Consultant advised they had concerns that the cancer had spread so quickly from the lump to the lymph node that they recommended chemotherapy – the euphoria of being given good news evaporated somewhat with the news of the chemo!
After my initial appointment at the Christie I was given lots of information in relation to potential side effects of chemo – the long list did make my heart sink somewhat & initially did make me doubt whether to go ahead with the treatment but after discussing with family & friends I signed up for it!
Unfortunately, the removal of the lymph nodes meant that I suffered quite a lot with fluid retention in my armpit and regularly visited the Nightingale Centre to have it drained – it was a race against time as the nurses wanted the fluid cleared as much as possible before the Chemo started on 22nd October. The Breast Care Nurses at the Nightingale Centre were a constant source of support & help and reassured and advised on what was ahead with the chemotherapy. My BCN, Evelyn, gently dropped hair loss into conversation and told me about the Cold Cap treatment.
The chemotherapy would consist of 3 doses of Epirubicin & Cyclophosphamide and 3 doses of Docetaxel and before I knew it the first session had arrived! That first session was hard - despite the expertise and care of the nurses – as it was a step into the unknown! I’d decided I wanted to have Cold Cap treatment – it felt like my head was connected to a freezer & for the first few minutes I did wonder what I was doing but, as I had been advised, if you can handle the first 10 minutes your body does adapt to the freezing temperatures & I did manage to keep using it for all 6 sessions. It wasn’t perfect and I did lose a considerable amount of my long thick hair and acquired a rather large bald spot but it was winter so I had treated myself to a couple of hats!
I’m not going to lie & say chemo was OK as it wasn’t and I did get some unpleasant side effects – nausea/mouth ulcers/nose bleeds/painful fingers/lack of taste/losing eyebrows & eyelashes etc but I know it could have been a lot worse. However, needless to say I wasn’t sad at leaving the chemo wing for the final time on 11 February 2016.
15 sessions of radiotherapy followed and on 31st March feeling euphoric after the last session I headed off to ring the Bell only to be scuppered as someone was sat directly underneath it fast asleep ;)
I started taking Tamoxifen immediately after the radiotherapy and have fortunately suffered no side effects with that. I continue to attend the Nightingale Centre for my annual mammogram and to visit the lovely Lymphoedema nurses twice a year. I wear a compression glove or sleeve to ease the swelling in my left arm but generally feel great & am enjoying life to the full.
On that diagnosis day it went through my mind places I wanted to go to and things I wanted to do so in the last couple of years I’ve watched tennis & cricket in Australia, athletics in Berlin, tennis in Paris and visited places that I’d always wanted to such as Krakow & Belfast. More trips are planned!
I was especially lucky having family & friends who went with me to appointments, visited, shopped, cooked & generally kept me company either in person or via Skype or on a phone call – without them it really would have been a struggle.
My GP signed me off work for the entirety of the treatment and I’m sure that aided my recovery – I admire anyone who is able to work whilst going through chemo!
Recently I became a Great Aunty when my nephew & his partner welcomed twin boys to the family. At moments like that it really makes you appreciate how wonderful life can be.
All I will say is please please please check your breasts regularly regardless of age or gender or family history in the hope that you can avoid what myself & the rest of my fellow BooBees have experienced.
Special thanks go to family, friends, GP, staff at the Nightingale Centre, UHSM & Christie.
I’m delighted to be part of this great campaign