My life was pretty mundane really, I'm a divorcee, mum of 3 daughters, 24, 21 and 13 and stepson of 13 to my amazing loving fiancé Mike. I am a registered qualified Dental Nurse with qualifications in British sign language, mental health, Public Health Trainer and Counselling. and worked full time. I loved boxing with my Personal Trainer fiancé but to be honest I found myself becoming too tired to keep up and be as active as Iused to be. In fact I am hitting the big 50 at the end of this year and I kept telling myself I should NOT be feeling this drained at my age!!! I ate healthily and was active due to my job. I don't drink and other than joint problems I am pretty healthy. Well that was until this year!
My story started way before I was actually diagnosed.
In 2017 I had had an extremely stressful year. One thing after another!! During the year I was plagued with a sharp electrical pain starting in my left nipple and shooting to my armpit. I put it down to stress as I had no lumps, dimples or changes. Mike kept asking me to make an appointment with the Doctor, but I was always far too busy doing assignments etc, so I put it off.
In March 2018 I got a call from my daughter sobbing, she demanded that I ring my mum immediately. I know instinctively that there was something wrong.
My dad came on the phone and announced that my mum had been for a mammogram and they had found a tumor. They had biopsied it there and then and advised her that she had cancer. Her treatment would be partial mastectomy and radiotherapy. My mum has many other major health conditions and was 70 but she handled it fairly well. However a week later we got a call to say her younger sister had also been diagnosed again, with secondary breast cancer, this time it was progressive.
That was it, I rang my GP, had an appointment that afternoon and was referred straight away to the breast clinic. I was given a mammogram, which was apparently clear, then told by the consultant that cancer does not cause pain, however he would refer me to Macclesfield Hospital to see the Family History Clinic. 6 months later I was in and out within 10 minutes. 2 family members with breast cancer, me being on HRT for 9 years did not entitle me to have the BRCA gene test. So, with that in mind I got on with my life. My GP wanted to take me off my HRT so I made an appointment for the end of January this year.
Three nights before my appointment I placed my right hand around my left breast, my left hand under my pillow and lay down to sleep, only I completely froze. What I felt in my hand literally stopped my heart!! I sat up and touched my breast not believing how large the lump was. I thought, nope that is just fat tissue, it was squishy and not hard, no its nothing to worry about. I went along to my GP for my HRT discussion and mentioned it to her. She agreed that it would be best to be looked at due to my family history. I was not worried at all. When we went into the appointment the consultant was very jovial, we laughed and joked about the lump being a piece of fat escaping from my butt!!! That immediately stopped when he rolled his fingers under my armpit. He then didn't look at me as he muttered to the nurse to organise an ultra sound after my mammogram. As Mike and I sat waiting I knew something was wrong. The mammogram nurse told me my mammogram looked exactly like last years and I had nothing to worry about. so maybe I didn't?
I then went in for the scan. The Doctor did the same, rolled the scan over my armpit, which kept confusing me. I asked her why she was looking at my armpit. She then told me that my lymph nodes were significantly enlarged, which worried the consultant. What happened next was like a blur!!! She pulled out the largest needle ever! I was in shock.
The next 2 weeks were the worst, ever!
On the 22nd February, a date I will never forget, we went along for the results. Funny enough I was expecting them to say yes you have cancer. I even researched the types of breast cancer, so when my consultant said "you have tested positive for breast cancer" I simply said ok. Well, if my 70 year old mum can do it, I can too. Just like that. I have HER2+3 ER and PR negative with significant lymph nodes affected. Surprisingly I felt ok and incredibly calm, until the BCN gave me a sick note for work, a car park permit and then a voucher for a wig. I asked why I needed a voucher for a wig, the consultant said, because you need chemotherapy. I looked at my partner and it hit me, no hair? I began to cry and then sobbed uncontrollably. Not because I had cancer, but because I was going to lose my hair!!!!
The months that have followed have been filled with my needle phobia becoming an out of control anxiety disorder, daily sickness, all sorts of medical problems, scaring the life out my partner by collapsing and losing consciousness!! But most of all climbing the walls with boredom ugh!
As I was so shocked that my cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and I did not know that I had to check under my armpit, so I decided to share my story on my Facebook page. After I had come to terms with my diagnosis and my family and close friends were told, I announced to the world that I had cancer. I also pleaded with all my friends to check their breast and most of all their armpit and pass on the message. I had dozens of messages asking me why and what should they look for? I also had messages from many friends saying that they booked a GP appointment on the back of my posts as they too had lumps in their armpit and didn't know they had to check under there!! I've had so much support and having cancer has brought me closer to my partner and to my sister, but if anything it has made me want to promote and prevent anyone else having to go through this hateful disease.