This coming Friday (22nd October 2021) is Wear It Pink Day in aid of breast cancer research.
This is very personal for me this year, as I have been fighting this disease since March 2021.
I’m pleased to say I got the all clear last week and am now cancer free! Tempered by the fact that I have to now have some further low level chemotherapy for a few months yet.
It feels like a long journey to get to this point. Since I found a lump at the end of February and discovering it wasn’t ‘just a cyst’, I’ve been on a rollercoaster of emotions. Just the amount of medical jargon and appointments is staggering. As someone who isn’t often ill, it’s been a real eye opener. With no family history of breast cancer, this was a huge shock.
The weird thing I have found with breast cancer is that I have never felt ill. The treatment makes you pretty unwell (chemotherapy works incredibly well, but has some serious side effects) but I always feel like I haven’t really been ill or had cancer.
My surgery went well and I used some of my stomach tissue to create a new breast, which means I now have an incredibly flat stomach (the silver lining to my cloud). As I write this, I’m 4 weeks into my 6 weeks off for recovery, and it’s been ok. Boring, but recovering well. Now I just want to be able to drive again.
My husband has been amazing, and my 2 boys (9 & 7) have taken it in their stride. We have been totally upfront and honest with them about the whole thing and they are very curious and want to see the scars! I think because I’ve mostly still been mummy, albeit a tired one, their lives have mostly continued as normal, thanks to my husband.
Asking for help has been hard too. Naturally we take on everything ourselves, especially after COVID and it’s been hard to say we need help. People bringing food has been the most amazing thing, enabling us to eat well, whilst focusing on the kids and my treatment. For me, having friends and family visit and break the monotony has also been lovely.
COVID has made everything harder. I have had almost all my appointments including the one where I found out it was cancer on my own. My chemo has been done alone, and for my surgery I was lucky enough to be able to have 2 people visit, which I know hasn’t been the case for so many. I’ve had to shield as chemo reduces your immune system, and not being able to have people visit when I’m down has been tough. On the plus side, I don’t feel like I’ve missed many social occasions!
People say I’m brave. I don’t feel brave in any way. I’ve had my moments of crying, raging and worry. I have generally been reasonably positive about it all and it has always been treatable which helps. But when this s**t happens to you, there is nothing else to do but get on with it, bravery isn’t part of the setup, as the alternative is too bad to contemplate at 47.
I have found that I am stronger than I thought I was. I’m naturally a pretty anxious person but this has taught me I can take more than I thought.
One of the toughest things has been having to have my hair cut very short
I used a cold cap (which is like having a freezer pack on your head!) which meant that I never went bald. I’m also grateful for my hirsute genes which means it has started to grow back. Cold capping did mean that I could retain a sense of normality which was great, although my kids wanted to know when I would be going bald!
Please, please, please, check your breasts. Have it checked as soon as you can if you find something, don’t leave it. The sooner you face things, the sooner you can get treated. And breast cancer, caught early, is very treatable. You can get monthly reminders to check your boobs at https://coppafeel.org/