Author: Zoe F
This time, exactly one year ago today, I was sat in a little room hearing the words "sadly, it's cancer". I knew it was, from the moment I had the ultrasound, heard the words "this is cause for concern" and saw the tumour on the screen. The breast care nurse sat in the corner was a bit of a giveaway too. I felt my mum's hand go into mine, but I couldn't look at her and I felt the tears well up. Then my consultant said "but, I think it's very treatable" and the tears stopped and I pulled myself together. I even took mum to Tesco afterwards! I was very naïve at the beginning and it took a while for the enormity and seriousness of it all to kick in, especially after I learned about my type of cancer. The consultant kept that bit quiet. After all, I felt fine. I didn't feel ill at all.
I went into organisational mode from then on. No one tells you that there is so much you have to do and buy to prepare yourself for surgery and treatment. Cancer is bloody expensive. I had my birthday 3 days later and carried on as normal, went to work and carried on as normal until I went off for my op. So then followed 10 months of surgery, fertility treatment, chemo and radiotherapy. It was very hard and emotional. I couldn't watch a cancer advert without crying. Cancer was everywhere. I'd have breakdowns to my mum sobbing "I don't want to die". Some days I couldn't even get out of bed, not even to wash or brush my teeth. The night following my first chemo I was in tears begging my mum to call the doctor out. It was horrific. I told her I couldn't do it again. But of course I did and with the right drugs to counteract the side effects it was still hard, but doable.
Once all the treatments are over people expect you to be happy, but you feel sad. When the last of the chemo drugs dripped through I wasn't smiling, I wanted to cry. When I had my last radiotherapy session I cried my eyes out on the radiologist. You're on your own then, back out into the world, and it's scary.
So, a year on. Has it changed me? Yes and no. I never had much confidence before, but the cancer knocked a lot more out of me. I'm a stone and a half heavier than before thanks to the steroids and I'm struggling to get rid of it. I have hair again and while having short hair isn't as bad as I thought it would be I still want it longer. It's also going curly. The little things still annoy me. I may never have children. I treat myself more.
The biggest change is that I've found myself doing things I would never have done before because I've realised that life is too short. It's a cliche but it's true. The cancer could come back, it may still be lurking somewhere, but if the worst happens I don't want to look back and think "I wish I'd done..."
Are you a young woman in the UK who has/had breast cancer? If so, please read this post about Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October (2015).