Life was far too busy to think about going for a breast check until a chance meeting with an old friend led Celia to think twice.
"Hi everyone, I’m Celia, often referred to as Ciz and C (the good C that is not the bad one). I am a wife, mother, friend, sister etc. I’m also a children’s/adult nurse, nurse educator and engagement officer and I am more of a listener than a talker so it’s very unusual for me to share my story in full. I’ve tended to use my experience to support close friends and now I want to help raise awareness among women and men so that this awful disease can be caught early. Like others I try to not let cancer define me, but I have to say that not one day has gone by since my treatment where it doesn’t enter my mind.
July 2015 found me very busy doing what nurse academics do, the end of marking, assessment boards, students visits etc to name just a few things. I was also at the end of a process of establishing a college for military veterans and emergency services and all was going well even though it had been hectic. My husband had just started a new job and our two sons were away in the midlands training. I was also physically very fit, I would say at my fittest -I had lost weight and was exercising regularly. Being busy a wind down in bed with a book was much needed and caused me to attend to an itch on my right breast, where to my surprise I felt a hard lump, significant in size. It was a surprise because I check myself often and it was only about two weeks since I had – this had come from nowhere. Still there it was, I felt again and again. The next morning in the shower I felt again, yep definitely still there. As I was still having a regular cycle I dismissed it for a couple of weeks, I had graduation to get through with my students and I somehow hoped it was just a cyst or hormonal. On the day of graduation as we lined up to process I heard someone calling my name and turned to find a very old friend of mine who I had not seen for years striding towards me. She was attending her niece’s graduation and we were able to have a quick catch up. You might be thinking why is this important. Well my friend is a breast nurse specialist. I kind of saw this as a sign. The next morning, I went to the open clinic at the GP who reassured me that she thought it was a cyst but would book me in.
Two days later I was at the Nightingale centre having the usual mammography and then the wait. I went on my own as that’s just me, I prefer it that way. Concern over what they had found led to an ultra sound and biopsies. I was quite pragmatic about it all really, it had to be done, but it was when she went to biopsy my lymph node that I had an inward panic. I asked directly if a node was inflamed as I certainly couldn’t feel one and was told yes it was. Afterwards I rang my husband and said I need to wait for the results and then I went to work and spoke to a couple of friends. For me the worst part initially was the waiting and telling the lads that this was going on, I wanted to prepare them, and I wasn’t surprised when they were as equally pragmatic. I went back I think about 10 days later. In my heart and my head, I knew it was going to be bad news and it was confirmed in my mind when the sister came with me into the consulting room and not the support worker (it’s a nurse thing). Miss Barnes was lovely and explained everything and Michelle equally fabulous who explained it all again. I had invasive ductal carcinoma which was at that time a Grade 3 – my question was can we fix this and the answer was yes – so let’s get on and do it.
I was offered to be part of a research trial where patients were given chemo first to shrink the tumour, then surgery and then see what treatment was needed later. I declined this because I just wanted this awful invasive thing out of my body. I was scheduled for surgery which took place on the 24th August 2015 and that went well, full analysis confirmed invasive ductal carcinoma - both Her2 + and oestrogen and that it was wider than the initial lump, but Miss Barnes was happy with all the margins and all progressed well. I did find out I was allergic to codeine, which I believe was quite funny to onlookers – my sons still re tell the tales of mum being as high as a kite. Fast forward and I have my first appointment with Dr Armstrong at the Christie, it was like talking to a friend, such a calm and lovely lady. My chemo had its moments and I tried to tell people when they asked what it was like by equating it to how many bottles of Merlot you may drink. I won’t go into all the regimes, but I will say that on my second regime I did get neutropenic sepsis, which of course the nurse in me said ‘ahh its nothing, be ok in a bit’ - WRONG! And not reflective of what I would say to others. I was a bit unwell and spent about 10 days in hospital with the sepsis, acute renal failure and bowel issues. The staff were amazing and every day when I open my eyes I am truly grateful for all the care. The only slight embarrassment was that students I had taught were now nurses caring for me and current students also looking after me – which they did well and I felt very proud. Following chemo, I had radiotherapy and then the ongoing Herceptin every three weeks, I finished my intense treatment in November 2016 and now take a couple of tablets each day. I found finishing treatment hard as if I would fall through some net. I have some residual problems, but I can’t complain. I didn’t mind losing my hair, the cold cap I couldn’t tolerate cos I’m a wuss, so the lads shaved it off for me. I named my wig ‘sally’ but only wore it three times. However, I did mind losing my eyelashes and the hairs up my nose as I kept sniffing all the time and became a tissue queen
For me I have been blessed to have wonderful love and support from my family and friends and my work colleagues were amazing. The post man didn’t like me as everyday there was a parcel or flowers and so many cards and letters, funny messages etc. Some made me laugh and some cry, and all made me appreciate every day and still do. Those who go through this all know that we are all different and that we respond to treatments differently. I did use all the services on offer such as complementary therapy, acupuncture, yoga and exercise etc and I still exercise as much as I can and do yoga. I’m very proud to have run two 10K’s since, raising money for cancer research and I am really pleased to be involved in this campaign and a big thanks to all my friends following the BooBee FB page and supporting. Much more research is needed into all cancers and I am more than happy to do my bit.
My saying is ‘Live for the moment – love and laugh all the way – don’t sweat the small stuff'
Love to you all, Celia X"