Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Breast cancer awareness month: A positive outcome

Author: Michaela

Everyone tells you to 'be positive' and' everything will be just fine'. I knew from the moment I found my lump that it wouldn't be fine; I think you just know.

But here's the thing, sometimes you do here a story about someone who got lucky when things could have been so much worse, and that is me. I hope my story can give someone in the early stages of this horrible journey some hope.

It was Mother's Day weekend and I'd been out with my mum and 2 sisters for ice cream and a weepy film. I got home to my husband baking cakes for me for Mother's Day and was told to wait in the lounge and DO NOT enter the kitchen! Love him! So I sat and caught up with the Facebook world. A work colleague who had recently finished her breast cancer treatment had posted something about checking your breasts. I NEVER check mine- because they are just lumpy and how could you possibly tell? I was horrified to find a very obvious lump which I cannot believe I hadn't noticed before.

The days that followed were just an emotional draining whirlwind. I was lucky to be seen by my GP and then the consultant within days. An ultrasound, core biopsy and mammogram were done and then an agonising 3 week wait for the results. In those 3 weeks I prepared myself for the worst. I was going to die and leave my two beautiful children without their Mum. My parents were going to lose their eldest daughter. Could my husband cope without me? Those 3 weeks of uncertainty were, without doubt, the worst 3 weeks of my life.

The results were as expected. I heard the words 'you have breast cancer' and the rest was a blur. What I didn't hear were the very positive comments that she made about how small the cancer looked, how the lymph nodes appeared to be clear. I had surgery 4 days later to have the lump removed and a sentinel node biopsy.

I felt devastated after the surgery. My lump was high up almost on my chest right on the edge of the breast. The scar I am left with is visible and if I'm honest, I hate it. I am not at a stage yet where I wear it as a battle scar to be proud of. Selfishly, I miss my nice shaped boobs and I miss being able to wear clothes to show them off. I don't think I will ever quite get over that part. Please don't judge me for that, I can't help it. I was most scared about having to have Chemo. I didn't want to lose my hair. I realise how pathetic and self aware I am, it's been a lesson in life that's for sure.

It's interesting how you learn so much about family and friendships at a time like this. I saw the pain in my husbands eyes and it made me understand how much he loved me. That had been something I'd doubted at times, but it was suddenly so real and clear. Seeing your Mum cry and say that she wishes she could have the Cancer instead of her little girl. That broke my heart- but I knew she meant every word. My Dad was a mess, he was so scared that he would lose me. And friends, interesting this. Some people you have been close to your whole life don't seem to know what to say, so they just don't say anything. That was very hard. Some friends, and work colleagues literally stopped speaking to me at all, instead talking about me to my husband. I know it's a hard thing to talk about, but from my experience, I know that I will always put my own awkwardness aside and make sure I speak to people. My family were amazing throughout; offering constant emotional support, practical help with childcare and cooking meals for us. A certain few friends now have an extra special place in my heart because of how they helped us through.

My results following surgery were as great as they could possibly be. A grade 2 cancer, only 18mm, all out with no spreading to the lymph nodes. The cancer was gone and best of all I did not need to have chemotherapy. Just 4 weeks of radiotherapy and 10 years of Tamoxifen. The radiotherapy was dull and a bit of a pain to get there every day but for me it was completely painless and I coped well throughout. Work were extremely flexible which helped too.

And here I am 5 months on, life seemingly back to normal, the nightmare of breast cancer hopefully a distant memory. Except it isn't for me, the reality is that I think about it every single day, that I am constantly scared I will get it again and not be so lucky next time. Everyone else around me has moved on and no one knows the mess my head is in. I've found I can't really talk to my husband about it as he always wanted to offer a solution, or tell me that I am being irrational. Which I know I am, but I just need someone to let me get the words out. I've decided to find out about some professional counselling, that way I can get the thoughts out of my head and friends and family can continue to move on and not feel I am being negative about my experience. I am awaiting the results of genetic testing now and hoping that a can of worms isn't opened from the results. Hopefully it is just me that randomly got this illness.

I know how very, very lucky I have been. Compared to many others I have literally had a brush from this terrible illness and have got away so lightly. Physically I am good, emotionally will take a bit more work! I want women to have hope that sometimes the outcome is ok, that if you find a lump early and act fast, the results are not always the worst.


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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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  1. What an amazing and inspirational story Michaela, the way you describe it really hits home how your world can be tipped upside down at any moment. It also shows what a lot of people already know, which is how strong a person you are and how wonderful your family are! Stay strong and we wish you all the best xxx
    (From Andy Harley)

  2. So very well worded and an incredibly emotional story. Stay strong Michaela and I hope that by talking to someone professional, you will continue making positive steps. Sending love and hugs
    Abi Parsons