Working as a teaching assistant, summer is always nice and relaxed. Roll back to August 2017 and whilst on holiday in Ibiza I noticed a crease in my left breast. When I felt round this area I could feel a small lump. I tried to put this to the back of my mind and continued enjoying my holiday. Once home it took a couple of weeks before I got an appointment with my GP, she said it was most probably muscle tissue from exercising. Not happy with that, I insisted I be referred to have it checked. The GP didn’t do the usual 14 day referral so this delayed things further and it was the beginning of October before I was actually seen at the breast clinic.
I went alone to my appointment, which took several hours as everything was running late. I had a mammogram and was told to go back to the waiting area and would be called back if further tests were needed. I sat there, reading a book, trying not to worry. Eventually I was called back in for an ultrasound and biopsy. The lovely breast care nurse held my hand while they took three samples of breast tissue. At this point I knew something was wrong. I went back to the waiting room and waited to be called again. Finally I was taken into a room with tissues on the table (obviously the bad news room!) The oncologist asked if I had any questions, all that would come out of my mouth was ‘Is it cancer?’ She said she thought so and that she would rather apologise if she was wrong rather than me go home thinking everything was alright. Everything over the next few days was a blur and I struggled to accept my diagnosis.
A week later I went back and it was confirmed, Grade 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma with areas of DCIS. I was given the option of taking Tamoxifen to shrink the tumour to enable a lumpectomy, I struggled with making a decision and wanted someone just to take the lead and decide for me. Following an MRI a couple of weeks later, where another area of concern showed up, I decided upon a mastectomy and made an appointment with my BCN to discuss reconstruction options. As my local hospital didn’t do the reconstruction I wanted, I had my care transferred to Wythenshawe. Within 3 days I had a phone call from the plastics team and went in for a consultation the same day. By now it was the beginning of November and from that day, everything went smoothly and swiftly. My surgeon, Mr Duncan (the wonderful JD) and his registrar Adey Molajo both put me totally at ease and discussed the DIEP procedure fully. I came home confident that everything was going to be ok in their safe hands. A week later I had a CT scan to check my blood vessels for surgery and managed to have an allergic reaction to the dye used! I went back to see Mr Duncan a couple of days later who confirmed it was all systems go! I had my operation, left side mastectomy and immediate DIEP reconstruction on the 12th December 2017. The operation took 8 hours and I was cared for brilliantly by the staff on F1. I recovered well apart from a few healing issues which were sorted by the fantastic team of nurses in the Plastics Dressings Clinic. My results from the Oncotype DX test on my tumour advised chemo was not needed, and as no nodes tested positive for involvement I didn’t need radiotherapy either, which I feel very lucky about. I commenced taking Tamoxifen as advised at the end of January and within a few weeks had quite a few side effects which affected my sleep and my general well-being. I felt that I couldn’t cope with this for the next 10 years.
As all my care had been fantastic at Wythenshawe, I opted to keep any further treatment there, so made an appointment to see Mr Mathen, my oncologist, who performed the mastectomy part of my surgery. He advised to reduce my dosage of Tamoxifen and to take sage for the hot flushes. Within a week of these changes I felt so much better, although fatigue was still wiping me out some days.
I went back to work on phased return in June 2018 and have recently in March this year had surgery to improve symmetry. I have possibly a couple more procedures to go before everything is complete and continue to take Tamoxifen and have annual mammograms at the Nightingale Centre, where there is fantastic support from the breast care nurses and Macmillan nurses. My first mammogram after diagnosis was clear and future care was discussed fully with Nicola, my dedicated Macmillan nurse.
When I heard about BreastFest I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I want to promote breast awareness and ALL its symptoms, not just looking for a lump and I want everyone to know what an amazing facility we have in the Nightingale Centre at Wythenshawe who not only provide support but are pioneering research in prevention. As a proud BooBee, I’m looking forward to promoting BreastFest and Prevent Breast Cancer.