My husband and I were planning on retiring in Cheshire to be near our family, when he died suddenly. After the devastation of his death, my step children encouraged me to continue with our plans to relocate and, ten months later I moved to Cheshire.
When I registered with the GP, they noticed I was overdue for a mammogram and asked if I wanted to arrange it, or they could. I selected the latter as I was up to my eyeballs in house renovations, getting used to the area, meeting people etc. It took eight months for the referral to come through.
I went along and had the mammogram. The following day some friends called in, and my friend was very upset as her 40 year old daughter had been diagnosed with breast cancer the day before. She was scheduled to have a mastectomy the following week. ‘She’ll be fine’ I said. ‘The treatment today is excellent, and the Christie is one of the best units in the world’.
It was a case of heeding my own advice two days later when I got the letter asking me to go back for for further tests. Immediately I ‘knew’ that the results would be positive, but as we were going to a family wedding the following day, I decided not to mention it to anyone until I’d had all the tests. On the Monday I went and had an ultrasound, more mammograms and three biopsies. The Breast Care nurse explained that they liked to warn people if they thought it was going to be a positive result. In my case they just didn’t know – “too close to call” was the answer back from the radiologist. Which, for me, meant that it might be benign. But it didn’t stop me dissolving into floods of tears with the nurse. In a strange way, I wasn’t worried about me, but my step children. They had recently lost their father and twenty years earlier, their mother, when they were young. The thought of putting them through yet another tragedy was devastating for me. That night my step daughter called in and we discussed it. She came with me on the Friday to get the results. And, as I suspected, it was positive. Her first comment as we left the unit was ‘of course we’ll get a second opinion’.
So, ten days later I met with a consultant at the Alex. The consultant I saw confirmed everything I’d been told at the hospital. He was really lovely and took lots of time to explain everything. The one question I asked was how long had I had the tumour. He told me about. 8 or 9 months. I often wonder if I’d had the mammogram when I moved to Cheshire, would they have picked it up? And by the time it would have been discovered, 3 years later, it might have been much bigger and nastier. That’s why it’s important to keep checking yourself out-with your mammogram appointments.
I decided to continue with the Macclesfield team and ten days later my lumpectomy and seminal node biopsy were done. When we went in for the results we were greeted with ‘it’s all gone and there was nothing in your lymph nodes’. So next step is to speak to the oncology team, who will plan the remainder of your treatment.
Three weeks later I saw the oncology team, was given a prescription for Anastrazole, told I didn’t need chemo and a date for my radiotherapy. I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I was.
So, almost two and a half years on, life is back to normal-ish. I had a few problems with the Anastrazole and the oncologist, Told me we’d just keep trying them until we found one that didn’t cause me any problems. Fortunately for me it was the next one I took, Aromasin. I’m now nearly half way through that treatment. I’ve taken up running and Pilates and am enjoying life again. I feel very blessed to have had the lump discovered so early. I always remember another radiologist remarking on the skill of the one who took my biopsies, as the tumour was so small.
Often I feel like a fraud, because I’ve had an ‘easy’ time – no mastectomy, node clearance or chemo, and no problems with radiotherapy. Then again I think it’s just the way the dice rolls. I’m no different from anyone else.
. What if I hadn’t moved and had had the mammogram earlier? What if I’d had it as soon as I moved? Both scenarios would have given me a clean result, but only for a few months or a year. Then it would has been a much more nasty tumour. And possibly with a different outcome. Fortunately you can’t change history, and I’m pleased that I have had the chance to get rid of it and am moving on with my life.
Since I’ve been involved with Breastfest I’ve met some of the most remarkable women. Some have had so much suffering and resulting issues, but they are passionate about dong everything they can to prevent breast cancer. I may not have had the same diagnosis and treatment, but I’m in the same ‘club’. Not one that I chose, but one that I’m proud to be in with my fellow Boobees, because we are so committed to making a difference. If I can do anything to help even just one woman not go through this, then I will have succeeded.
The lesson I’ve learned? Breast cancer is not a death sentence. You don’t always need a lot of big treatments. If it’s caught early, your chances of complete recovery are great. Always check yourself and look at your boobs, see if there are any changes. If you are even the slightest bit worried, go and see your gp and ask for a referral. Most importantly make sure you have your mammogram. It takes two minutes and it might just save your life.