I had just turned 48 and I was thrilled to be promoted to a senior leadership position in the company that I had started to work for a year previously. I knew it would be a stressful year, my eldest son had his GCSE’s and my youngest just a year behind him, but we couldn’t have imagined the whirlwind we would be thrown into.
To cut a long story short my best friend from university had had breast cancer 2 years previously and had had a bilateral mastectomy at the age of 46 and my sister-in-law had also been diagnosed with breast cancer in the same year at 44. Since their diagnosis, I was constantly being nagged to go for early screening, but having no family history, limited risk factors and never having had any lumps or bumps with my boobs, I was determined to wait until I was called at 50 by the national screening programme.
My new role was getting really busy and I was travelling the country quite a bit when I was called for my routine NHS smear, finding a suitable time became impossible. I work for an amazing organisation who offer a benefits package that includes an option to pay privately to have your bloods, smear and mammogram done in one sitting at a time of your choice. This seemed the perfect solution.
A week after my mammogram, I was sat with a colleague on my way back to the airport, when I received a call from the doctor, saying please don’t worry, but as this is your first mammogram, we have nothing to compare it to and we would like you to book a follow up. So the following week I went to see a breast surgeon who re-assured me and suggested that we did a biopsy to check we had nothing to worry about. A week later, my husband and I went back to the Nightingale centre for the results. The first thing I saw was the breast nurse, this set my alarm bells, my consultant said “Please don’t worry it’s not breast cancer it is DCIS” I work in the healthcare industry and I had never heard of it before. He went onto say that due to the extent you have 2 options. Option 1 to enter into a trial and the trial will decide if I have a mastectomy or if we watch and wait or option 2 I make the decision to have a mastectomy. All I remember saying was “FxCK” over and over. I only went in for screening, I take good care of myself, I don’t drink, I eat healthily, I go to the gym regularly. My hubby had to lie down on the examination table he was so shocked.
The surgery wasn’t urgent, so my hubby and I decided not to tell our boys and until after the GCSE's, it could wait until we had had our family holiday.
A few weeks later we had another blow, my hubby’s father got diagnosed with terminal mesothelioma, (asbestos related lung cancer) having been a plumber all his life. I started to think about my options and I made the decision that I would take control and have the mastectomy in September with immediate reconstruction and that I would want both boobs matching so I pushed for a bilateral mastectomy. I had to pay for a second opinion and to see a clinical psychologist to ensure I was of sound mind in addition to the £8K for my healthy breast but it was the best investment I have ever made. I now have a perfect pair thanks to my amazing surgeon.
I feel extremely lucky, when I received the pathology results from my unhealthy breast they found a cancer previously undetected via mammogram or ultrasound.
And, on the good news front my eldest son went on to attain 11A* at GCSE and is now about to start Oxford Uni in October.