Hi everyone, my name is Siobhan, and I am 46 years old – nearly 47 which I’m so thankful to be reaching this age, as every day is a bonus. My Journey started in June 2016 when I noticed a lump in my left breast, so I paid my doctor a visit and was referred to a Breast Consultant at the Countess of Chester Hospital.
On examination my consultant informed me that I had Tietze syndrome and apparently I had very lumpy breasts...
I was not offered a mammogram.
Then, in November 2017 I discovered another lump, this time it was painful and large. I didn’t hesitate to go straight back to the doctor, who was very concerned and immediately referred me straight back to the breast clinic. I was reassured that breast cancer is ‘not normally painful’ and it was most likely to be a cyst. How wrong were they…
Two weeks later (longest two weeks in my life waiting) I was back at the Countess of Chester Breast Clinic to see the sameconsultant who originally examined my breast again and this time they sent me directly for a mammogram. Whilst sitting in the waiting room I remember chatting to another lady also waiting for a mammogram and our conversation revolved around Christmas presents - obviously trying to take our mind off of what was yet to come.
During my mammogram they advised me that they wanted to carry out a core-biopsy immediately so they could examine the lump under microscope. This was also attained during this procedure, and I was then sent back into the waiting room where the lady I had previously been chatting to asked if I was okay. It was such a shock to have a biopsy there and then and I tried to contain my emotions, but eventually I broke down and was taken into a private room where I asked the breast care nurse outright “whether or not I had breast cancer?” as I sort of knew what was coming next. I was told that the consultant was very concerned.
Throughout this appointment I felt alone and scared, as my partner was not allowed in the examination area. This has got to have been the scariest time of my life. After the biopsy was taken I was informed that my results would take at least a week to come back, and I was to try not to worry too much. Easier said than done.
On the 18th December 2017 I returned to the Countess of Chester Hospital to find out my results. During this appointment I was told it appeared to be Grade 3 invasive Breast Cancer, which although personally this information was devastating. I was then told I would need to go back on the 29th December for a lumpectomy. Christmas was therefore a bit of a blur and between myself and my partner we decidednot to tell my two children (17 years and 8 years) until after Christmas.
On 29th December I went back to have the lumpectomy, this was unsuccessful. I was therefore required to go back under the knife on 16th January 2018 to remove further margins. During this operation the consultant also removed some sentinel nodes for examination – which thankfully were clear indicating the cancer hadn’t spread to my Lymph nodes.
I was then referred to Clatterbridge Cancer Centre under the extremely watchful eye of Dr Errington my Oncologist, to start treatment of three courses of FEC chemotherapy and three courses of Docetaxel. On the day of my 1st Chemo treatment I bumped into the same lady who had been sat with me in the waiting room at the breast clinic. Suzy didn’t recognise me as I had already had my hair cut short in preparation for it falling out. Suzy was very anxious and scared of receiving chemotherapy and was having a little panic attack. I managed to make light of the situation and help calm her down talking her through why the machines were buzzing, bleeping and just making a lot of noise… This became the start of a fabulous friendship where we were able to help each other along the way. I have subsequently made lots of friendships through my journey especially with the most fantastic, courageous, and inspirational Jane Dabner, who has taught me the best way to get through treatment is with a smile and laughter, Jane is now my Queen BooBee. I have also formed lots of friendships with ladies going through breast cancer on the Facebook group “Breast Cancer Buddies”page especially my dear friend Emily (who I have still yet to meet in person). However, we have supported each other through social media. Emily is also a Boobee, so I am excited to meet her soon.
I would not have got through any of this without my dear friend Karina who sat with me through every treatment except for one when she rudely went on holiday, so my other dear friend Kara came along to support me. Also Pauline, my chemo twin. We would sit next to each other during treatmentand lit up the chemo ward and made everyone smile with our jokes and conversation. I actually looked forward to our Tuesday at the hospital, it became our day out and chance to catch up and see all the amazing nurses and staff on the ward. My partner Steve (who is my rock) and my two children Aaron and Lily have been so massively supportive and understanding throughout all of this, and I would be lost without them.
After receiving my 1st lot of FEC (chemotherapy) my hair started to fall out in clumps, so I embraced the bald look and visited my hairdresser again and asked her to shave it all off. Surprisingly I rocked the look and actually preferred to wear the caps instead of my wig. The FEC made me feel sick, drowsy, lethargic, fatigue, a bit like morning sickness, I suffered with mouth ulcers and lost my taste buds. I had 3 lots of FEC and then went onto have Docetaxel known as the Red Devil of chemos, my first one was given on the Wednesdayand by Saturday I was admitted to Clatterbridge being treated for sepsis. I was very poorly and was pumped full of antibiotics, thankfully, within a few days I started to feel more myself again. Unfortunately, Dr Errington my oncologist had to then change my treatment to 9 lots of Paclitaxel given each week. I had to have a PICC Line fitted at the start of treatment which was a life saver as my bloods were taken through this and chemo pumped into my body. Whilst in Clatterbridge I was given a CT scan and was told I had a Territoma attached to my left ovary so was then referred to the genecologydepartment at the Countess of Chester where I was told I would have to have another operation at the end of my treatment. I decided it was best to have both my ovaries removed which would happen at a later date.
After chemo had finished, I was put on an intensive course of radiotherapy which was given every day for fifteen days. This made me feel extremely tired and I still feel the effects even to this day, but it was a walk in the park compared to chemo. During the radiotherapy I started to feel an ache and heaviness in my left arm and was referred to the Lymphedema clinic, I found this the most upsetting as it effects my everyday life, more so now - I have to wear a compression sleeve everyday as my arm fills with lymphatic fluid as my lymph nodes was damaged during my second operation to remove further signs of cancer. I’m struggling to comes to terms with this more than my cancer, knowing I have this for life. I do try to stay upbeat and paint a smile on my face but some days it’s hard and I do get down, this will surprise people as I’m always smiling and don’t let people know.
In February this year I had the Territoma removed with both ovaries and was thrown into early menopause at the age of 46 which meant I had to change my cancer treatment from Tamoxifen to a drug called Letrozole the side effects cause hot flushes, severe joint pain and fatigue. I also go to Clatterbridge every 6 months for my Zoledronic acid infusions this is to prevention treatment against bone cancer and osteoporosis, this also comes with side effects - flu like symptoms and bone ache.
The thing that kept me going through all of this was the fact that there were several special family occasions to look forward to like my daughter’s first communion, my son’s 18thand my partner’s 50th birthday. I made sure that I put on my wig and a big smile and joined in the celebrations. The best party of all was on 14th August 2018,my 46th birthday, when I got to ring the bell to mark the end of my treatment.
I want to say a massive thank to all my friends and family who supported me through the hardest time of my life, including all my chemo friends to my close friends Clare and Leila who came with me for my last Rads. I couldn’t have done it without you.
I have decided to become a Boobee because after all I have personally been through, I am very passionate about preventing breast cancer for future generations as well as raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.
Having to go through such journey changes you in so many ways. I will never be that girl before breast cancer – this is me now.