It all started back in January 2014, I sat in bed thinking of a new challenge. The last three years had been difficult. My mother in law had been declining in health until we had to make the difficult decision to put her in a nursing home in June 2011. Then I gave up my job and my husband and I moved in with my father in law and I became his full time carer. So, my 49th birthday was looming and I thought it was time for a new challenge, something just for me, to feel alive again.
That year, so many things came together and at the same time came apart. I entered my first Triathlon, Hyde Park, London in the world series and through it I made some wonderful friends that have now become my wonderful strong support network. Unfortunately, whilst I had regained a little bit of the world that was just mine, my parents in law were getting worse and with it, a lot of cracks appeared in my marriage. Unbeknownst to me, I was also ill and because I was so fit and busy, I didn’t pay attention to the tiredness, fatigue, I was feeling. Finally, just a few weeks after my mother in law’s death in Dec 2014, I went for my first mammogram at the Nightingale Centre, completely comfortable with it and not worried at all. I prided myself on knowing my body, I had no lumps, no significant changes to my breasts so nothing to alert me to the diagnosis. The moment, I received that letter recalling me, I kind of knew that it was going to be bad news. After a 2nd mammogram, I was rushed in for a biopsy and a few days later, I sat across from the consultant and the floor opened up. I’d like to say that I acted maturely and calmly but nothing of the sort.
I couldn’t take it in when he said mastectomy, I was in total denial. I kept saying to him, « it’s not possible, I just ran 8 miles yesterday, I am training for Wilmslow Half Marathon, I can’t be having an operation ». He eventually got through to me when he stated that the mastectomy had to happen within the next 30 days and he then opened his diary and scheduled it in. This was real, I had early breast cancer Ductile Carcinoma in situ, DCIS in my left breast and the area covered was more than 4cms so the only way to get it all, was to perform a mastectomy.
I drove home in a daze and when I told my husband, it didn’t sound real and I don’t think he really understood. It was 2 days later, I was out running and suddenly the tears came. I realised there and then that I needed to put my energy into fighting this 110% and nothing else mattered. The hardest part by far was telling my family and friends and in fact we never event told my father in law before he died whilst I was still in hospital. In the spate of 3 months, I had lost both my parents in law, my mum and dad as I called them and thought of them as such. The breast cancer diagnosis never really sank in properly until I woke up after the operation. My friends rallied around and within a few weeks I was well again. I had been healthy and fit before and was lucky that it was caught early.
However, further complications meant that I had to have part of the operation redone 18mths later which set me back quite a lot. My marriage didn’t survive bereavement followed by illness. My husband became quite depressed and he checked out of our marriage which I fought for a while until I realised that life was for living. Every memory needs to be cherished, every moment with loved ones. I didn’t have the patience nor the desire to pander to his needs and moods when I felt that I had been given a second chance. The biggest gift that breast cancer gave me is clarity. Clarity to know what and who matters in life. Live for today like it’s your last, love with all your heart, bring laughter into everyone’s life.
I am stronger, fitter and happier. There were many dark difficult days and I certainly didn’t think that I would ever get divorced but it’s the choice that I had to make to ensure that my future is a bright one, full of joy.
I have supported this wonderful charity since my diagnosis and want to shout from the rooftops about all the good work and very vital research they undertake. I am so proud to be part of BreastFest and to be a BooBee and if one woman’s life is changed for the better through it then we have done our job. So many wonderful women have come through a similar journey and they are all amazing but am sure they will agree that we want the next generation not to have to go through it.
Early detection is key but most of all, prevention !!! I look forward to raising lots of money for the charity and spreading the word on the BooBee Bus.