Friday, 9 October 2015

Breast cancer awareness month: Getting through it

Author: Karen

When I found a lump in June 2014 I immediately thought the worst. I knew something that big( I later discovered it was 6cm) and hard couldn’t be good news. It was confirmed during an initial ultrasound and mammogram by a reluctant consultant and BCN who would only advise me that what they had seen “was worrying”. I was pretty sure that this wasn’t a medical term so insisted that they told me more. They confirmed it was indeed breast cancer but that I would have to wait a week for the biopsy results to know what grade, treatment and future lay ahead. I was shocked but strangely calm, my only wobble coming when I thought about mw two lovely boys who were 1 and 6 at the time.

I went home and for the next week I thought the worst. I switched on automatic pilot and went about life, business as usual, at least whenever people were watching I did. Only my husband, my boss and a couple of colleagues knew and they were a great support to me during this time and beyond. I spent the journeys to and from work crying but once at my destination of work or home I painted on a smile that masked a thousand worries and carried on as I had before.

When D day came and I met with my Oncologist for the biopsy results, I heard that the cancer was treatable. I knew that I faced a long, hard slog of treatments and surgery but I was so relieved that I knew what I was facing and even though it was daunting and scary it was as good as it could have been and much better than I had spent the week fearing. It was however a grade 3 dual- fuelled cancer which meant that there were two things causing it. This irony has not been lost on me given that I have never been able to have one biscuit, one chocolate, one glass of wine and now I couldn’t have one sodding cancer!!

I then had to go home and tell my 6year old son whose first question was “Are you going to die?” and then tell my Dad and my Mum, who was recovering from a stroke. The guilt and upset I still feel at causing such pain and anguish to my loved ones will stay with me in some way forever. I could handle what this bloody illness would do to me but hated what it would do to those who loved me.

I thought of this ‘nasty’ as a blip, an inconvenience and developed a bloody mindedness that this wasn’t going to disrupt our life any more than was absolutely necessary. This included insisting that my husband and boys started a holiday in Glasgow to watch the common wealth games which saw me joining them a day late following chemo number 2 with my big sister holding my hand. Thanks to a first class train ticket courtesy of my Dad I travelled in style to join my family on our holiday a day late. If there were any perks to this I was determined to find them.

After 6 rounds of chemo, which obliterated the uninvited nasty in my breast, surgery and radiotherapy I was deemed ‘cancer free’. Cue party poppers, bunting, champagne and celebration, or so you’d think. I was of course happy, relieved and glad to be alive but I’m left with the feeling of “what on earth just happened to me?”. The ten months I was off work and having treatment seemed to pass in the blink of an eye but also seem to have been the longest time. So much has happened and I’m still here and I hope to be for as long as I can be to see and enjoy life with my husband and boys.

I didn’t choose this unexpected event in my life and I wish it hadn’t have happened but it did show me who my friends are and also how brilliant my husband is. He was there through it all, providing lifts, support, childcare, cleaning, cooking and an unwavering belief that I would be ok and one day this would all be behind us.

I am a different person now and I am still trying to get used to my new normal. I may not be running marathons and nor am I loving every minute of every day. I still get annoyed and upset at the trials and tribulations of life and still occasionally “sweat the small stuff” but I’m getting through every day as best I can. Moving on has not been easy and I’m still working through things. 

I saw this quote “Sometimes you have to go through things and not around them”. That’s what I did I, got through it.

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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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