Sunday, 25 October 2015

Breast cancer awareness month: Debbie's story

Author: Debbie

On 1st May 2014 I was diagnosed with stage 1 grade 3 breast cancer at the age of 27. My breast cancer was ER/PR + and HER2 +. I have since had a double mastectomy, 6 months of zoladex, 4 months of chemotherapy, 1 year of Herceptin and I will be on tamoxifen for 5 years. I am now 17months cancer free. I am the second person to have been diagnosed with breast cancer in my family. My cousin passed away from breast cancer when she was 37 years old. I have been tested for BRCA 1 and 2 gene mutations which came back negative and I am in the process of being tested for Li-fraumeni syndrome.

When I was diagnosed myself and my fiancé were living with my parents to save money for a deposit for our first house, after being told I had breast cancer this is something which I never thought I would see. A year later and we are now living in our first home and will soon be joined by our new puppy, Murphy. We have also booked our wedding for 2 years time, so we are busy wedding planning as well as decorating. I am very close with my family and friends and would not have made it through this last year without them. Whether it was them giving me presents after every chemo session or just the daily whatsapp messages we sent to each other, everything they did helped me to forget what was happening and actually made me realise I am still the same person.

I discovered two lumps in my right breast when I was in the shower. I wasn’t worried as I had had a lump in that breast before when I was 16 years old and it turned out to be glands. I put off going to the nurse because I thought it would eventually disappear, my fiancé told me to get it checked out so 3 weeks after I first discovered the lump, I had an appointment with my nurse. My nurse examined me and told me it was probably a cyst but that I would be referred to the breast unit for them to double check. Two weeks after that I had an appointment with the breast unit, they performed a biopsy and when I asked if I should be worried the nurse told me “Not at all, I am 99.9% sure it is nothing, it is textbook fibroadenoma”. 3 days later I was due to go back to the hospital for the biopsy results, I remember the nurse ringing me in the morning asking if I could go in earlier because the doctor wanted to leave earlier and I thought “how rude, I am going to make him wait now”, now I know why they wanted me in earlier. I remember being examined again and hearing my Mum whisper through her sobs “it should be me behind that curtain, not my baby”.

The only way I knew how to cope was to pretend it wasn’t happening, I was and still to this day am in denial about everything. I have had a few quiet cries but I have never cried properly, I wont allow myself to cry uncontrollably and let it all out because I'm afraid I wont be able to stop.

I remember looking at the doctor when he told me I had breast cancer and just thinking “what the hell is a mastectomy?”, I should have listened more, I should have asked more questions but I didn’t, I just sat there nodding, thinking “what am I supposed to say”. No-one tells you how to cope with a breast cancer diagnosis in your twenties! Why don’t they teach this at school? I don’t know anything about mortgages, taxes and how to cope with cancer but I know everything there is to know about the cells in a plant!! I remember when I was diagnosed and there was a leaflet for a support group which was run by Gladys, Doris and Mary, and all I could think was, “no way, how can they possibly know what I’m feeling, what if I can’t have children, what if I die before I'm 30, how will my Mum cope, what will me friends look like when they are in their forties with all their children running around, I don’t want to miss this, I don’t deserve to miss this!” When I came across the Younger Breast Cancer Network UK I thought this is too good to be true. Whenever I have felt down, or needed advice or reassurance they are only a click of a button away. I have not met these women but I feel incredibly close to them all and I thank them all for their support, without them I know I would not have worked up the courage to actually go to a support group and I would still be sat here thinking how am I supposed to get through this.

I don’t know how to think about anything else, cancer consumes me day and night, but when I start to let the negativity in, I think God didn’t give me this second chance so I could spend the rest of my time moping! I will do everything I've ever wanted to do and I will enjoy the rest of my life because who knows what will happen tomorrow!

Me and my best friend when we were 3 years old

Me getting my head shaved

Me with my best friend this year at her wedding

Me with my fiancé

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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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