Thursday, 8 October 2015

Breast cancer awareness month: The worst day of my life

Author: Natalie

Can you believe it?

It's 18th Sept 2013, 6 months to the day since I had the worst day of my life, when my lovely consultant said "I'm sorry Natalie it's cancer". I can still remember every detail as if it was yesterday. I remember sobbing and saying over and over again "how do I tell her, how do I tell her, how do I tell my mum". It was a thousand kicks in the gut, shit - Billy - what if I have to leave him, what if I have to miss him growing up, he needs me, Scott needs me, my sisters, oh god does that mean they could get it? I'd spent 2 weeks since my biopsy imagining how I'd tell my parents 'just in case', never thinking I'd actually have to. Kneeling down in front of them and saying breast cancer's back but this time it's me was the hardest thing ever. Seeing my dad's face turn grey before my eyes as he relived the memories they just knew too much. He'd already watched the woman he loved go through it less than 2.5years before now he'd do it all again with his little girl.

Why the hell is life so cruel and why the hell did I have to break my parents' hearts? I couldn't tell my sisters so I called their partners on the way back from the hospital and got them to do my dirty work. Scott's mum and dad were just as bad, they knew I was going for results and when they hadn't heard from us for a couple of hours I think they'd guessed the worst. I broke their hearts too, in fact that day I broke everyone's heart and I absolutely hated it.

The couple of weeks following my diagnosis are a blur. It's weird, I can remember some bits so unbelievably clearly yet others all blend into one. I needed to decide my op. At first I hated my puppies, what once were one of my favourite parts of my body were now my most hated 'asset', I didn't want them they were why I may have to leave my son, they were 'killing' me. Over time though I grew to realise it was the cancer lump that was the issue not my boobs. I was lucky the lump was on the top of my left breast meaning it could be found and removed easily, so I decided on a lumpectomy. With a little boy who had only turned 2 a few days before my diagnosis I couldn't afford a long recovery which would have been the case if I'd had my breast removed.

I had my operation on the 16th April and it became my worst nightmare. I'd been for the radioactive injection that morning ready to be injected with blue dye and turned into a smurf for my Sentinel Node Biopsy. Sadly I never got the dye as just before I went to theatre I found out I was pregnant. Now life is really bloody cruel. I had appendicitis when I was 38 weeks pregnant with my son and had to have it removed, 2.5 weeks later I had an emergency c section, so was advised not to conceive for 2 years to give my body chance to recover from 2 abdominal surgeries. We'd 'made love' once, a week after my diagnosis, while my tits still looked good and we were careful. That was 2 years pretty much exactly, it would have been perfect.......if I didn't have cancer.

I was told on my own, I remember every detail, the nurses chatting in the corner, my nurse's face as she slowly walked over, calling Scott in tears, calling him again an hour later and hearing him sob. Being wheeled to theatre for my operation and worst of all waking from my op clutching my belly the exact same way I did 2 years previously, already it was our baby, oh god, and in its first few weeks of life I was feeding it poison after poison.

I received the results from the op a week and a half later. They removed it all with clear margins and it wasn't in the 2 nodes that they could remove. Brilliant news, yet not all great as it was grade 3 triple negative, the most aggressive and hard to treat of all breast cancers. I needed to start chemo as soon as possible... the chemo I needed I couldn't have while pregnant!

I had no other choice - not only did I need to start chemo ASAP, I'd already had so many medical procedures including a radioactive injection that could seriously affect the development of the baby. Scott also told me he and Billy needed me too much and it wasn't fair to risk my life when the baby may not survive anyway and he could lose both of us. I arranged for a medical termination. I hated waiting for that day, like with Billy I had bad morning sickness and no matter how hard I tried I loved it so much already and wanted to do everything in my power to protect it yet instead I was organising to end it's life before it had even begun. I spent nearly 3 weeks praying nature would help me out but sadly that wasn't the case and I had to do it, have the abortion and say goodbye to my baby, our dream and what could be our last chance of having another child. Sadly due to the pregnancy I could no longer have fertility treatment to freeze my eggs so I now just pray that my ovaries have survived the treatment and in a few years we'll get the chance to try again.

2 weeks later I started my chemo. 3 lots of what's known as FEC followed by 3 TAX. I'd like to say this was all plain sailing but I'd be lying. FEC is nasty and I had a severe reaction to my first one about 2 hours after I returned home. I was admitted to hospital and spent 14 hours constantly being sick and wrenching so much I could hardly catch my breath and burst all the blood vessels around my neck and face, at one point I honestly thought I was dying, my poor parents they were there through it all and all they could do was watch. Eventually with the help of some very strong drugs the amazing staff got it under control and 3 days later I was discharged to go back to my mum and dad's to be spoilt rotten.

That's when my new routine started. Every 3 weeks I'd go for chemo on the Friday morning, I'd go back to my parents and ride out the steroids and sickness till the Tuesday. I'd then go back home to my boys. The first week was a write off, second week and half the third I felt crappy, extremely tired and had body aches I couldn't even begin to describe but I could just about function, and the end of the third week I filled to the brim with as many fun things as possible.

Yes I've had my moments through chemo and have had some very bad side effects but I've been lucky, I have not had an infection and have managed to stay as fit and well as possible throughout. I had my last chemo on the 6th of September and actually left the hospital dancing (didn't last long haha). All in all it has flown by and as hard as it's been I've done it, got through it and come out the other side hairless, missing quite a few finger and toenails, and a lot skinnier but I'm still smiling.

I will be starting phase 3 of my treatment plan at the beginning of October where I'll undergo 20 sessions of radiotherapy. Already have Ellie Goulding's 'you gotta let it burn, burn, burn' running round my head. Then that's it I'm done, a couple of months of tiredness then I'll be doing more than I've ever done, loving and living life to the complete maximum.

As much as these have been the most horrendous 6 months of my life that I'd never want to repeat, I have also added some of the most amazing and fun filled memories to counteract the bad. My little sister and her best mate's weddings (being a rapping bridesmaid and rocking the fascinator and skinhead look), Billy's first trip to Alton Towers and a trip to the zoo with mine and Billy's best friends to name just a few. It's amazing how having cancer makes you see things differently, it makes you appreciate everything and everyone you have, it makes you thankful and most of all it makes you realise what's really important and what you should and shouldn't worry about.

6 months down the line I truly feel like I've been blessed and I am extremely lucky. Yes nature has dealt me some really, really crap hands but at the end of the day I caught it early, I have got over the worst of my treatment and come out the other side literally dancing. I may have had to say goodbye to my baby (by far the hardest and most horrendous decision I've ever made and something I will live with forever), but the fact we conceived so easily and at the most stressful time I have hope, hope that one day we can add to our little family again. But more than anything I really am grateful and couldn't thank everyone around me enough for the love and support I've received, I truly could not have done it without knowing I had my family and friends by my side and of course my little 2 year old son Billy, he's truly been the best medicine anyone could ever have wished for, and I'm thankful every single day that I have such an amazing son.

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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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