Saturday, 31 October 2015

Breast cancer awareness month: So much to say...


What a month.

Last October, 2014, I was halfway through chemo. Quite frankly, I looked and felt like a bag of crap. The massive bald patch on top of my head, steroid bloat, Generic Cancer Face as a result of missing eyebrows and eyelashes, constantly streaming eyes and nose, sore and bleeding arse, and rank mouth thanks to oral thrush were actually the least of my worries. I was more concerned with my upcoming CT and ultrasound scans. Worst case - the results would show my cancer had spread and was incurable. Best case - the scans would be clear and I could look forward to my post-chemo treat of.... surgery. Ooh goody! A skin-sparing (but not nipple-sparing) mastectomy with immediate reconstruction using latissimus dorsi muscle flap, and expander implant. It's as lovely as it sounds. I was also newly single, knew I would never have children of my own even if I did stay alive (and that's if I even managed to find someone new to love me, cancer and all!)

So much of the "awareness raising" and fundraising that goes on during Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a smack in the face to young women like me who are undergoing or have undergone treatment for that very disease. Last year it was pink Playboy bunnies strutting round train stations with collection buckets, this year it was a social media campaign to... show everyone your bra strap on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. Gah! (Don't get me wrong - both fundraising and awareness raising are incredibly important - but it doesn't have to be so insensitive).

I'd set this blog up in March to encourage and support young women with breast cancer to write about and share their experiences. Writing is cathartic! As October approached I realised the blog was also an ideal platform to do some awareness raising of what it's really like to be a young woman with breast cancer. I hoped that I might be able to publish a new post every day throughout the month.

Thank you!

In actual fact - there have been 65 posts on the blog this October. I have been blown away by the response from young women across the country, who wanted to add their voice and share their stories. It has been an absolute honour to read, publish and share every single one of them. I would like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to all of the women who took the time to write for the blog for breast cancer awareness month. There have been over 16,000 views on the blog during October. Your stories have both educated and inspired. THANK YOU!

I would also like to say thank you to everyone out there who has liked the Facebook page, followed us on Twitter, shared the blog posts, and added their kind and supportive comments. Every single one has been very much appreciated. Please continue to read, comment, and share. It feels as though the Young Women's Breast Cancer Blog is becoming a safe and supportive community - you are all a part of that.

Thank you also to the AWESOME Jo Harrison for designing our very own special pink ribbons.

Thank you to Melissa Fletcher for designing the pink photo ribbon we used as part of our October "logo".

And thank you to all of the amazing young women with breast cancer who contributed their photos to create this poster.

So what's next?!

Breast Cancer Awareness Month might be at it's end, but the blog is here year round. Any young woman in the UK with a breast cancer diagnosis can contribute to the blog at any time. Here's some information that will hopefully be of use if you are interested!
If you have any queries - please do get in touch at

But there's more!

Throughout October a number of conversations have been taking place behind the scenes and... we are going to do a special series of blog posts at the end of November/beginning of December. There'll be a separate post calling out for submissions very soon, but I wanted to give a heads up just now. It's going to be a no holds barred, unfiltered, honest series about being young and single with breast cancer. Sex, dating, body confidence and all the rest of it. If this is something you might like to contribute to please get in touch at All posts can be kept completely anonymous.

More info coming very soon!

In the meantime, thank you again for all of your support during breast cancer awareness month. Go and check your breasts now eh?

Sarah xx

Breast cancer awareness month: Hummingbird

Author: Sarah C

My heart is full. I am joyful. It is two months since my surgery and I am well. I have got through this. I have lived through this. I am in love with this moment. My stomach flutters like the wings of a hummingbird and life pulses through me.

Yesterday I spent all day in meditation. Mindful. Mindful of the fact that this is the end of the acute phase of my cancer journey. My wounds have healed. No fluid, no swelling, just a scar which looks less angry every day. I have accepted the loss of my breast and am slowly coming to terms with the practicalities of what this means. Negotiating changing rooms and swimming pools and conversations with awkward questions.

The hardest part has been having to massage the scar every day. Looking in the mirror at the wound where my breast once was and slowly, gently trying to bring the flesh back to life. The surgeon cuts through the muscles and nerves and the area of the wound becomes numb. With proper care and attention you can coax the nerves back to life but you have to be brave. You have to look at the site where the cancer was, you have to face the trauma of the cutting and the stitching and marvel at the miracle of healing. You have to be kind to yourself, body and mind. You have to take time. You have to accept.

Yesterday in meditation I decided to celebrate this moment. To enjoy the crescendo of this part of the healing process. The body is a miraculous thing. Life is a marvellous journey. I am scared of tomorrow and the tablets I will have to take and the risk of the abnormal cells multiplying and dividing, forming a new army ready to invade like Putin’s people on the borders of the Ukraine. But this is today, this is now. I am well. I stood and I closed my eyes and I said thank you to whoever or whatever has led me here. Whatever has been my guide, my Sherpa on the rocky terrain of illness, I know I have been guided through to this place.

As I closed my eyes a dove swooped down in front of me. It was a big and powerful bird and it quickly disappeared. Then quietly, gently a hummingbird came into sight and stayed, hovering just over my heart in front of my chest. Technicolour and startlingly beautiful, I felt like Mary Poppins without the excruciating Dick Van Dyke and the fluttering of its tiny wings reverberated through my body with a joy and freedom I cannot describe.

Eight years ago at a time of crisis I went to Barbados and made some decisions that changed the path of my life. The decisions took courage and strength and meant breaking with the old ways to find a new happiness. There was a humming bird nesting on the veranda of the house I was staying in. Every time I stepped out on to the veranda the humming bird came out. My heart opened at the sight of it and I found the courage to live a new way, inspired by this tiny bird who could move so fast and yet always stand still, entranced by the energy and the strength of this magical creature. Yesterday the humming bird came back.

Tomorrow I get the tablets which mark the start of the next phase of my cancer journey. The banality of the everyday living with chronic illness, daily poisoning myself with the tablets in the hope it will kill the potential future threat. My own personal war on my own personal terror but for now I just need to hold onto this moment and make sure I keep my humming bird with me as I make my first faltering steps into the future. 

Sarah writes at

Friday, 30 October 2015

Breast cancer awareness month: Like losing a little part of me

Author: Laura

It's very hard to put into words how having breast cancer has made me feel. 
I feel a little like they cut a little piece of me away when they cut out my lump. 

That little piece may have been my tolerance, I have less patience with people's moaning about the things they have the power to change. 
That little piece may be part of my identity, sometimes I feel like all people want to ask is how the treatment is going, and I know that they mean well, but sometimes I would like to talk about something else.

That little piece sometimes feels like the friend I was, when people try to protect me from their dramas (because it's nothing compared to what I'm going through?!?) it doesn't matter how big or small the problems you are facing are, a problem shared is a problem halved and all that.... Please talk to me!! You know,sometimes it's nice to know that other people are having a tough time too (not that I want anyone else to have a rubbish time) but then I don't feel so isolated and alone.

That little piece is sometimes my confidence. Chemo steroid weight gain, scars, bloating, baldness, eyelashless, ruined nails, more scars.... I will never look in the mirror and see myself, but now see a new person who I am learning to love. I know my hair will grow and my scars will fade, but right here, right now, it's hard to look at my reflection.

That little piece is sometimes my energy, just making it through the school run, a hospital visit, a few hours work, and I'm completely wiped out!

But, in the little pieces I have lost, I feel there is so much more I have to give, and so much that I have gained. 

The strength my family and friends have shown has blown me away. 

The support my colleagues have given is phenomenal! Planning nice gifts, collecting well wishes from our clients and saving them for my "bad day" each cycle, creating a box of sunshine (filled with anything yellow and sunny.... Anything from mustard to sand?!? Ha ha)

They say in times of trouble you learn who your friends are, my diagnosis has shown me that people are kinder than I could have imagined and care more than I realised.

It will take a long time to find that little piece of me that I feel I have lost, but with my husband at my side and my friends and family behind me, I know I will get there. 

Thank you x

Breast cancer awareness month: Tales of asymmetry, dating and always looking on the bright side...

Author: Alison G

To the left, to the left … All the single ladies, all the single ladies…

Yes, I am a fan of BeyoncĂ©, but these lyrics also have a lot more meaning, which I’d like to share with you in my unique take on life as an asymmetrical woman.

So, there was a film on recently, in it a man takes an earth shatteringly beautiful woman home after picking her up in a club. They get back to his room and he confesses, he was umm exaggerating about the size of his body part. She laughs and says, ‘Don’t worry, let’s be real.’ She then takes out her contact lens, then whips off her wig….he gasps… come her boobs, he attempts to leave, and I kid you not, followed by her bottom and lastly leg.

I’m not quite sure what was funny in this after all, as hang on just a few years back this could be me.

Breast cancer can have you feeling like the incredible detachable woman

Just 4 years ago my body was in symmetry, my body parts could have lined up two by two, to jump on board Noah’s Ark.  Two eyebrows check, two boobs check…
In May 2012, aged 40 and full of life and mischief, my life was interrupted by a shock diagnosis of an unknown primary tumour that had metastasized (spread to you and I) to my lymph nodes. The next two weeks were largely spent in hospital gowns, having every available test, chemical cocktail and radioactive power being charged through my confused body. Every day I woke up hoping this was a bad dream and put on a brave face to all those I loved. After 2 weeks it was confirmed as Breast Cancer.
I would say I was fortunate that I had 5 weeks from my diagnosis until my mastectomy, it gave me time to absorb this information, and actively search images to see what this would mean. I can’t imagine how difficult it would feel to be given a diagnosis on Monday and operated on Wednesday. I needed time to understand just what the heck was happening. So I remain grateful circumstances enabled this (my surgeon being on holiday).
Have you ever seen a mastectomy image? I hadn’t, so I educated myself and told myself, ‘You’re going to need to love this new you, as you might be like it a long time, if not forever’
After being told I had cancer I wasn’t offered immediate reconstruction, not everyone is, it depends on the type of treatment you need afterwards, I had a locally advanced cancer which appeared aggressive so they wanted to whip it off as soon as possible, before blasting me with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. By the way it is annoying when people say, ‘so and so had reconstruction immediately, why haven’t you?’ Or ‘so and so had recon and now has amazing boobs and a flat stomach' – yawnnnnn.
I had time to prepare and cope with being left asymmetrical, and predictably my humour emerged as a coping strategy. I planned a Bon Voyage Booby Party, where with good friends we celebrated the imminent departure of my left boob, playing snap, match the boobs, eating chocolate nipples. Jelly boobs and all members dressed with fake boobs, the best being the old lady sock boobs that made passers-by imagine we were a Hen Night. For me laughter is the breast cure …
I had a blog 2theleft, where I could express my feelings, and a closed Facebook group for my close friends and family, which was usually filled with images, and articles. Many might think my humour tasteless, but it worked for me. We made a playlist….’to the left’ obviously made the list, so did ‘Gone’ – Nsync, ‘Man I feel like a Woman’. Tasteless and tacky yes, but a way of helping me and those closest to me to cope with the shock of what had happened.
You don’t necessary jump up and fully embrace your asymmetrical look, for some women it can take weeks, months or even years to accept and embrace this change. For me, I made it my mission to love my lop-sidedness. I wanted to see the scar as soon as possible, and joked with the surgeon by turning one side I was 7lb lighter. Not sure she found this as amusing – she did make me wear a straight jacket for a while! I jest….
I wanted to accept the new me, and considered without my left breast I could place my hand on the bony landscape where a boob used to exist and feel my heart beating away, it’s kind of comforting. I mulled that it perhaps would make me more vulnerable, and open to love. Hmmm we’ll come back to that.
It’s not easy being asymmetrical, your body wants to compensate for the shift and balance. Dressing is different, you have to change the way your dress so that your prosthesis doesn’t fall out, or appear over the top of your clothing giving away your secret. Initially you have a softie, that you can squeeze into shape and then after your scar settles you graduate to a silicon prosthesis that sits inside your bra and feels like a real breast. It certainly intrigues most people who feel it, it’s like a boob shaped stress ball. A heavy one.

Perks of asymmetry…
You have Go Go Gadget Boobs, I have a different one to swim, a different one in the summer – I’m sure I could have a special one for nights out even with a sequined nipple if I searched the internet.

But obviously you have no sensation, so if someone slams a door on my left boob I look blankly at them, or if someone nudges me by accident and flushes expecting a reprimand…they are surprised that I probably didn’t even notice. Or and if it’s cold my right nipple will respond, and not my left – which is obviously AWOL. I think people are too polite to mention this.

Going through airport customs or being searched to get into a club or concert will have a little doubt – imagine they realise it’s a fake boob and then think I’m a drugs mule, or female impersonator. The ping of an elastic glove can have me running faster that Bolt.

Women joke about finishing work and removing their bras, I can go one up on this, by coming home and whipping my boob off. I never thought at 40 I’d be going to bed with my boob nestled beside me in its only little pillow. Will be my teeth next?

If there is a strong breeze in the office I can whip it off and it becomes a paperweight …or if a conversation with a potential date isn’t going well I take it off and end the night…. OK the last two are fictitious, but what a thought though.

The lows…
At first I’d be self-conscious going boob less even around my kids, but during chemo and radiotherapy I lost that, along with all my hair, including nasal hair, eyelashes, eyebrows, toe nails and finger nails. I didn’t lose weight though, no steroids and chemotherapy bloated my body and the scales went up by 9kg. How’s that even fair?

Ending 2012 I felt absolutely repulsive to all, including myself sadly. In public wearing a wig, and being fully dressed I might have the occasional guy smile at me and I’d drop my eyes feeling a fraud. Thinking if you saw me underneath this you’d certainly not give me the same appreciative glance.  The toll of the diagnosis and treatment can grind you down, I didn’t want to focus on how bad I looked, or felt, and instead focused on finishing all treatment and getting back in the gym.

Being stripped of all things that you define as making you feel feminine is extremely difficult. Every day we are bombarded with beautiful celebrities and images of ‘perfection’ I can safely say I felt offended by society’s ideal of beauty at this point in my life and had serious eyebrow envy.

Don’t worry it will grow back ………
Well my boob won’t, unless I am a strange mutation after all.  Hair – yes, but let me tell you growing back from bald is the longest wait of your life.
The year following active treatment ended my confidence, that had initially soared for seeing off cancer and having No Evidence of Disease (NED) dropped as reality took over, feeling uncomfortable with the no style short style hair, the traitorous eyebrows that never grew back and my stubby eyelashes, oh and hard to shake Tamoxifen pounds I wanted to hibernate.
Between 2012 and 2014 every woman seemed to have HD eyebrows, doubly long lashes and waist length hair.  I had a pair of eyebrows drawn on with a sharpie – to stop them rubbing off, and slow growing chemo curls.

Don’t hate, appreciate….
In truth your body is a miracle, just as it can stretch and accommodate a growing baby, it can defragment from cancer treatment and pull back together.
It’s not even 3 years since I finished chemo and I have hair I can flick, and twirl round my fingers, and hide behind again, oh boy that feels good. To reassure anyone currently in treatment, no product advertised makes it grow faster or thicker, it just takes time. Obviously my nails grew back, my eyelashes too, not as full as they were before but that’s a potential side effect of being thrust into a premature menopause from Tamoxifen.
It’s widely reported that women diagnosed with breast cancer face high rates of anxiety, depression and decreased self-esteem. Whilst going through treatment everyone is behind you regarding you a hero for battling the bad C word. Once the active treatment ends, you are left piecing back together your life and body parts potentially.
I am always saddened when I read about women who feel they have been ‘mutilated’ and can’t look at their scars. Women whose partners or husbands leave them as they too can’t cope with the physical, psychological and emotional changes that cancer leaves you with.
I was dating prior to my diagnosis, and I haven’t since. Why? I consider this a process that I’ve been working through, I had to work through loving me fully and wholly first. Guess also after all I’ve been through this hasn’t actually been a priority – a) Beat Cancer b) get a boyfriend.
Ok admittedly perhaps I was too fearful to show my vulnerability and face rejection for exposing my own unique lopsided beauty before now. It all takes time. For anyone else in the minority, as it certainly feels that ‘being single during cancer or beyond’ is a minority, when you read the thousands of threads praising loving husbands, Hang in there.  People will tell you that, ‘someone who really loves you won’t care.’  The person who probably said that wasn’t single!!
My advice – be your own cheerleader, love yourself and let your body and confidence repair. Once you start to feel this returning, opportunities will appear too. I did a search to find threads, blogs and articles from other single women post breast cancer who had not had reconstruction and found barely anything. So I guess we have to be the ones to step out boldly and do this, what have we go to lose? Remember if the date's going badly, whip out the prosthesis and watch him run.

Breast cancer awareness month: "But I don't know what to say"

Author: Anonymous

A recurring theme among my breast cancer chums is how we lose friends and acquaintances after we get diagnosed. Some people, who we least expect, step up and are amazing. Others who we'd normally consider really good friends fall by the wayside. Some of us have found that once our treatments finish those same friends expect to pick up where they left off and this is difficult for us. We've witnessed that when the chips are down they didn't have our backs.

Don't get me wrong some of the phrases that I'm mentioning have probably crossed my own lips before, but let's say after my diagnosis and subsequent treatment I'm a little....let's say.....more aware of what I say.

It's really hard for us to know that you've been avoiding us simply because you didn't know what to say or do. When all is said and done, you know your friend, you know which of these tips applies to your friend with breast cancer. Most of these are personal to me, some have been inspired by my breast cancer friends. I hope they help you understand a little bit more about how your friend is feeling. Above all else, when the chips are down it doesn't matter what you say or do as long as you carry on saying and doing something - anything. We lose so many friends and that's really sad.

So let's crack on!

That head tilt!'s ok to feel sorry for someone with cancer, it sucks after all, but sorry is an apology and you have nothing to apologise for. It isn't your fault. It isn't anyone's fault. Instead think about saying "I'm so sorry this has happened to you, can I do anything/would you like to talk about it". We know you mean well but that head tilt speaks volumes to someone diagnosed with cancer.
Cancer isn't a fight, it's a bloody endurance test and yes we need encouragement to get through treatment and surgeries but we need support above all else. Saying things will be fine is belittling our situation. We never know it will be fine and what makes me more of a fighter than someone who lost their life to cancer?.... Did they not fight hard enough? Instead think about saying "I hope everything turns out ok" or "I'm praying for you" or simply "Do you want to talk about it?"
We won't ask! We're stubborn creatures but we are also independent and feel we should be at the prime of life. Nothing blows your self esteem than having to ask for help. If you want to help, pop around with a lasagne for the family, we need to eat well. Ring us on a Saturday and ask if the kids or us want to go to the park. Ring us when you are in the supermarket and ask us what we need. If you've come around for a cuppa and you feel inclined go ahead and make the tea and possibly do that bit of washing up. We will be forever grateful for your help but we probably wont ask and we'll probably say "oh it's ok I don't need any help but thanks for offering."

Surgery options, treatment options, reliving diagnosis, worries, fears or just generally wanting a whinge. No opinions needed just a kind ear.
We want to know what's going on in your lives. Nothing sucks more as a cancer patient than being the last to know anything. We want to know what's up with you right now. We want to be able to help and advise as we always have. We are still your friend first and foremost and to be honest it takes our mind off of us a little at your expense but it's nice to have something to think about other than cancer.

For one thing it's always beneficial to have a second set of ears. Hospitals are horrible and a lot of time is spent just waiting. Take her to chemo and keep her occupied. Take notes of what is said. Hold her hand.

A lot of cancer patients feel like all their decisions are being made for them and the truth is they probably are. If you have a party/lunch date/dinner planned don't assume that they won't want to come because they are having treatment. Invite them as you always would. A patient can feel fine one minute and dreadful the next. It helps them to have a focus and plans in place and if they cancel at the last minute don't be mad just rearrange. A lot of cancer patients believe it or not lose friends because they become less reliable than they used to be for obvious reasons. It won't last forever but their recollections of how you handled those situations will last a lifetime for them.

Lots of us blog our experiences. Read them.......all of them. You'll probably learn a lot.

We of all people understand what it's like to feel poorly and to be honest most of the time our immune systems are so trashed the sniffles for you could mean a hospital stay for us - but the internet is a wonderful thing and so is connecting to the people you love. We want to know what's going on in your life. So think about Skype or FaceTime it's a wonderful way to connect and chat that doesn't make our numb fingers ache. If life has been manic fair enough but you know what there's always a minute for a quick text even if it is just to say "things are manic, catch up soon" - you probably would have before.

That may be true, but give us some credit our bodies are going through hell and so are we. We might be pretty cruddy friends right now but we're still your friend and to be honest the chemo fog makes it hard to remember our own names let alone yours. Sorry!

It's not all doom and gloom. We still like a laugh as much as we ever did. Joke about things when appropriate to do so. If she's worried about going out in her wig do your hair up so hideously that no one will be looking at her. You'll laugh! I bet.

Truth of the matter is cancer is lonely. We lose people because they feel they don't know what to say or do. Send us messages, arrange visits, ask us out for coffee no matter what we'll be grateful for the company and change of scenery.

So talk about the weather, tell us about the shoes you bought for your date on Saturday.........tell us about the date on Saturday! Tell us about the annoying woman at work who went around all afternoon with bog roll stuck to her shoe! We wanna know! We're interested in life outside of cancer too. It's your company and most of all your friendship we want not an in depth profound conversation on the meaning of life.

With anything! Just anything. Little gifts, cards, letters, magazines, DVDs, pamper sessions, conversation.

Well that feeling is mutual but please don't lay any unnecessary guilt on us. We already feel guilty for upsetting the lives of our family/friends/kids/partners.

Yes please! Please help us to nourish ourselves when we're probably too tired/feeling too rubbish to do it ourselves. Co-ordinate with your other friends so we don't end up with 6 dinners on one night. Flowers and chocolates are lovely also but you can't beat a home cooked meal.

If she says struggling with the house work suggest a cleaner, phone around some and ask for quotes or see what local charities offer the services, if you can tell she's generally not herself suggest she seek counselling which is available to nearly all people diagnosed. Or again look up local charities, the Haven offer specifically tailored courses for women with breast cancer. Encourage her to accept all help that's offered to her. It can be a very hard thing to accept that you need help- support her through it.

Who wants any sort of cancer?! No cancer is good cancer. People die from breast cancer. Nearly 12,000 women a year in fact. There are lots of treatment options, but for some women those options run out. Just no!

Well thanks, maybe I will and maybe it'll hurt less than major surgery or Tax chemo aches!

The worst thing that can happen when you feel like pouring your heart out is being told "don't talk like that, you've got to stay positive". We do try to stay optimistic on the whole but sometimes it's good to let it out. If we want to talk about worst case scenarios or who we want to look after our dogs if we're not here one day then just let us say it. We're both hoping it won't come to that.

Take her out, take her kids out, do the school run, take the dog for a walk. Cancer affects not only the person diagnosed but all those around them too. Try to help her make day to day life as normal as possible for everyone else.

Well it is a bonus not having to shave but not having hair, lashes or brows sucks! I don't care if I have a nice shaped head! I want my long locks back and I want to have to spend 1/2 and hours tousling my tresses before a night out!

Thanks for these little nuggets. For now I'd like to form my own opinions based on medical facts, thought through and discussed with my oncologist. I'm not dismissing your ideas but please don't ask me to accept your ideas as medical fact. It's a minefield as it is learning a whole new medical dialect. Find me a leaflet and I'll have a read if and when I'm ready.

Nothing is screaming out of a cancer patients head more than the thought of death and dying. Lots of people die from cancer, that's a horrific fact. We've probably lost people we know and love from it too. Just don't say anything on that subject at all.

Hair cutting before chemo, throw a party. Birthday, throw a party. End of treatment, throw a party. Good test results, throw a party. We love nothing better than a good excuse to be around the people that we love.

There will be times when we still continue to look pretty amazing, it normally takes some effort, makeup, wigs or withstanding the cold cap. But don't presume because we can look well that we are. A lot of people especially those with secondary breast cancer can look really well a lot of the time. The honest truth is we normally get tired very easily, can pick up bugs pretty swiftly and that's not to mention the psychological impact we're going through. Instead say something like "you are looking well today, how are you feeling".

Tell that to the 6 month old baby with leukaemia. Cancer doesn't give a damn about your age. We can't say I'm sorry Mr Cancer sir but I can't have you because I'm only in my 30's so go away.......if only.

Yes! Friends do ask. Reconstructions after a mastectomy aren't at all like having an augmentation. We may learn to live with our scars and grow to be proud of them but early on they cause us an array of emotions, they are red and sore. Most of all we all pretty much liked our boobs just how they were thanks very much. If we want to show you we'll ask if you want to see.

If we've just had chemo probably be in our pj's looking and feeling a bit rubbish but your effort counts a ton. We might not be up to much conversation especially in the early days after chemo but we love seeing you and yes we'd love a sandwich and a cup of know where the kitchen is.

The best any breast cancer patient can hope for is NED - no evidence of disease. Breast cancer has a funny little habit of rearing its ugly head even years down the line. We don't get given the all clear -we get sent away with a list of symptoms to look out for for possible recurrences and we have yearly mammograms to check for recurrence. And even if my body is cancer free now, my mind will never be.

No one knows! We've probably racked our brains, calculated every contraceptive pill we've ever taken. Recollected every bump our boobs have taken. Analysed every morsel of food and drink that's passed our lips. Unless we are diagnosed with a gene mutation which could give us a greater risk there's just no way of knowing. Unless we bring it up let's let sleeping dogs lay.

Surgeries, steroids, anti sickness drugs and chemo not only knock us on our backsides and make some of us less active. The steroids and anti sickness meds actually fuel our appetites. Not all women are the same - some lose, some gain and some stay the same.

I go back to the "all women are different" comment and also add all chemos are different. Some people sail through chemo, some end up so sick with it that they can't even have all of their treatments. Don't make your friend feel bad for not living up to your expectations.

If there's anything your friend could do with, especially if she has no hair, has gained weight, is loosing her nails, has no brows or lashes, it is an ego boost. Compliment her on how fab her wig is, or her new sunglasses. Try to avoid saying things like your new hair cut really suits you, FYI it's not a cut and we didn't choose it. But we like compliments just like the next person.

No no no no no! Just don't ask. We aren't told. How long is a piece of string. Unless we say otherwise we are gonna live till we are old ok.

We're fighting for our lives here. Please don't dismiss yours with a flippant remark. 

You could and you would if you had to. Brave is making a choice to do something that scares you. I suppose in a way we do make a choice to endure the treatments but the alternative is much scarier so in that case I'm actually a great big scaredy cat......see what I did there.

It's not a walk in the park for us either but we're hoping this is just a blip. Sometimes in life you have to face difficult situations.

................ We need you now more than ever!

So there it is. I'm sure there are many, many more that I haven't thought about. Feel free to add them in the comments.

Like I said before though these are just tips if you are finding it difficult to know what to say and what not to say but at the end of the day we just want to stay friends and for at least one aspect of our lives not to change forever.


Thursday, 29 October 2015

Breast cancer awareness month: Lost

Author: Kim
This is how I'm feeling at the moment.....lost. 
Since my first diagnosis last October I have been quite upbeat, had my down days but on the whole I felt quite positive. But after I was told it was back in the other side a month ago I have been feeling the complete opposite.  Never before have I felt so sad, I am certain I have hit rock bottom and I don't know how to get up. Three weeks ago I had a second mastectomy and have been recovering, mainly alone. Hubby was working, the kids were at the grandparents so I didn't have to look after them and I think I can count the number of visitors I had on one hand. I went a bit stir crazy as I wasn't allowed to drive for a couple of weeks.
My body is slowly recovering but my arm is still stiff and sore from the node clearance and I have a horrible painful seroma where my boob once was. 
It's my mind that is struggling. Struggling that I have to do it all again when we had just started getting some sort of life back. Struggling knowing that my oncologist thinks that it might still spread so will be ordering more scans after chemo and probably more in the future. Struggling with the fact I am now classed as  'high risk' of the cancer coming back and going elsewhere. Struggling with my research of the chemo drugs I'm going to be on and finding that it's normally used for advanced cancer. Panicking that my team have forgotten to tell me something! Struggling with not knowing if I'm going to be around to see my two amazing boys grow up. I'm worried that my friends are now bored of cancer Kim, and I don't blame them. Who likes hearing about cancer all the time and I'm not the happy cancer patient I once was. I feel sorry for my husband, he is struggling with it too and feels rubbish he can't help me. The look he gives me when it all gets too much for me and I cry, it breaks my heart. 
I wake up in the morning and I don't want to face the world, I just want to curl up in bed and stay there. But I can't, my boys need me to look after them. At the moment I feel like I'm not a good mummy, I never feel like going out anywhere or doing anything really. I snap at them and lose my patience with them quickly. It's not their fault and I feel incredibly guilty. 
I don't even have the energy or inclination to do any of my crafts I used to really enjoy doing. Instead I have thrown myself into helping others going through this. Myself and three other ladies are running a charity giving out gift bags to local people going through chemo for breast cancer. I genuinely feel happy when I know we have helped someone through a rough time. I am also helping to organise workshops in my local town to show people how to check yourself and what signs to look out for. I really hope I can make a difference with these two ventures. 
I still feel like I'm 18 and definitely don't feel like I am grown up enough to deal with all this crap! 
I know I need to speak to a professional and I need to do it soon before it gets worse. So that is next on my list of things to do! 

Breast cancer awareness month: So my boobs are trying to kill me...

Author: Katie

I'll start my story on a hot summer's day in July 2014. I'd gone alone to my appointment at Broomfield Hospital's Breast Clinic as I wasn't feeling too concerned about my results. As Emma, the genetic counsellor, delivered the results that I had tested positive for the BRCA2 gene mutation I didn't really know how to react. In fact it's taken nearly a year to know how I feel about it enough to start this blog.

For me, being told I have the BRCA2 gene mutation feels a bit like a half-diagnosis. Yes it does mean that I have an 86% chance of developing breast cancer and over a 40% chance of developing ovarian cancer but day-to-day it doesn't actually change anything. I'm not ill. I'm not sick. I don't have cancer. I don't want sympathy and ultimately the only thing that has changed is my knowledge of my risk, which I now view as an incredibly good thing. 

I think my family's history with breast cancer is a big reason for my lack of panic over my diagnosis. My half-sister was diagnosed in 2010 aged just 30 and a year later my Mum was diagnosed aged 48. Both went through gruelling surgeries, chemotherapy and radiotherapy and suffered greatly through their battles with the disease but happily both are now safety in remission. I think that seeing both my half-sister and Mum survive breast cancer it means to me that I don't automatically view it as a death sentence, although I do realise there are many who aren't as lucky.  

The Jolie Gene

Google 'BRCA' or 'breast cancer gene' and you'll undoubtedly find hundreds of articles on Angelina Jolie. I love Angelina and admire greatly what she has done to raise awareness. She's gorgeous, strong and positive but she's hardly someone you can call up for a chat and discuss her fears about Brad seeing her post-mastectomy body. That's one of the reasons why I'm writing this blog.

I hope that by putting my feelings, thoughts and fears out there I help someone else going through the same thing. I'm 27, I'm a bit vain, I have a good career, I'm worried what I'll look like in a bikini after my surgery, will it affect my sex-life, will today be the day I feel a lump, will I still feel feminine? I don't have all the answers but if my blog brings a smile to just one person going through something similar then that would make me so happy.

Fight like a girl

Over a year on from my news and I'm actually feeling very positive. 1000 women a month die from breast cancer in the UK alone and I'm very lucky that I have been given this warning. I have a choice to save my life before I'm even diagnosed and for that reason I will be undergoing a full double mastectomy by the end of the year.

Cancer is such a horrible spiteful illness and makes us all feel powerless. The fact that I have a choice makes me feel so empowered. I'm one of the lucky ones and I'm going to fight this like a girl. 

You can follow Katie’s journey through her full blog here:

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Write for the blog! This blog is one of a series being shared on the Young Women's Breast Cancer Blog UK during October, breast cancer awareness month, but the blog is here year round. If you are a young woman in the UK who has/had a breast cancer diagnosis and you would like to be a part of this blog, please have a read of the additional information here.

Check your breasts
Breast cancer can happen to any of us - regardless of age. Information about how to check your breasts can be found on the Coppafeel and Breast Cancer Now websites.
Further information and support:
Younger Breast Cancer Network UK - an online chat and support group for women under the age of 45 in the UK who have had a breast cancer diagnosis.
Baldly Beautiful - a YouTube channel with make up demonstrations, created by Mac makeup artist Andrea Pellegrini who went through chemo herself in 2014.
Take A Moment - This is a group for women (all ages) who have/had breast cancer who want to explore, reflect on and express their feelings and experiences through photography. This is a link to the public page - to join the group, send them a message.
The Osborne Trust - Providing children of parents with cancer the opportunity to access time out recreational activities whilst their parents undergo operations and treatments
Jen's Friends - Free heart-shaped pillows for women (and men) with Breast Cancer. Designed to provide comfort and protection after a Mastectomy operation.

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