Let's start at the beginning...
November the 1st 2019… a date I will never forget as long as I live. The day I was absolutely blindsided with the news I had breast cancer.
What. The. Actual. Fuck.
I knew something was going on, I mean, I didn’t think it was bloody CANCER, but I had felt a bit “off” for a lot of the year. Around March time I had been to the doctors with a massive drop in energy levels, I had started to feel pretty crappy and I was so tired all the time that I knew something wasn’t right. I was going back and forwards for a lot of the year, starting to wonder if I really was just “tired”. That having a toddler and a full time job with a lot of travelling and commitment was starting to take its toll. I had blood tests etc and there were a number of small little niggles we found like vitamin B and D deficiencies, a lactose intolerance (but I mean, who isn’t?!) and there was talk of some sort of inflammatory disease… but what, no one seemed able to tell me.
I can’t remember exactly when I noticed my lump, I’ve never been a fan of boobie fun so they quite often got neglected, and I’ll be honest, I had never EVER consciously checked my boobs for lumps… mistake number one. I think it must have been towards the end of summer, but, thinking it was just something hormonal and nothing to worry about, I ignored it, promptly forgot about it and went on as normal… Mistake number two. We had a cracking summer, and although I noticed the lump a few more times, I still completely ignored its existence. Blissfully unaware that the cancerous little fucker was growing by the day, and was already making a move for my lymph nodes.
In October, the husband and I had booked a long overdue weekend away in Cambridge. We’d had such a lovely time catching up (life as parents with full time jobs can be rather busy) which was marred slightly on the Sunday morning, when my husband pointed out quietly that he thought he had felt quite a big lump in my chesticle that he thought I should get checked out. Someone else noticing it made it feel all that more real, but I still didn’t think I had much to worry about. Despite this, I booked myself a doctors appointment the following week to get it looked at. The GP had a good feel around, and although he could definitely feel a lump, he assured me there was nothing in my armpit area and he was adamant I had nothing to worry about. He wasn’t actually going to refer me at first, but at my insistence, he told me he would request an appointment but due to my age, it wouldn’t be anything “nasty”
I got a letter within a week, with an appointment at the breast clinic for the week after. Off I went, chill AF, on my onesie to my appointment. I was chatting and laughing with the consultant and nurses as I went into the room, until my consultant had a feel of my chest and my armpit and then absolutely ruined my vibe by telling me he could feel another lump or two in my armpit as well.
He explained that they wanted to do an ultrasound, and a biopsy of both. I was alone and caught totally off guard and I went straight into panic mode. First up was the ultrasound, and I just knew from that point that it wasn’t good news. I could see it on the screen, and in their eyes. Next was to be the biopsy but by this point I had really started to freak out, cursing my choice of going on my own so as not to “put anyone out.” Luckily the team could see how nervous and upset I was, and told me that if I wanted, they would wait while I called my husband to see if he could join me to hold my hand.
I should have known for certain then it wasn’t good news, but trying to be brave and stay positive, I told myself not to worry, and that it was all just a precaution. They did the biopsy (which they numb by the way so was completely painless) it took a while as I was shaking like a leaf, and then told me they wanted me to have a mammogram as well. I remember seeing a tear roll down Matthews cheek as I sadly shook my head at him, we both knew what was coming.
The consultants next words changed my life forever “you’ve got breast cancer”
I managed to hold it together while he explained they would need the biopsy results and possibly some further tests before they could make any sort guess at what kind of cancer or what the next steps would be, but the minute he left the room, I just sobbed. How??? How could this have happened, what was going to happen to my 2 year old little boy, how was I going to tell people. Telling my family and friends was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, especially not having any answers to their questions, because you don’t even know yourself. My sisters turned up armed with prosecco and we did what any sane person in my shoes would have done… got pissed.
The next two weeks were the worst two weeks of my life. No comparison. I thought finding out I had cancer was going to be the worst part, but actually it’s not. The worst bit is knowing that you have it, but not knowing what the little bastard is doing, where it’s hiding, if it’s spread, and (depressingly) if you’re going to make it out the other side. No fit, healthy young woman should ever have to go through that.
My appointment the week after the initial diagnosis was for the biopsy results, which showed I had a rare type of cancer in my right boob (a mongrel tumour made up of all kinds of fatty cells that didn’t normally belong together. Trust mine to be bloody fatty) and confirmed that the small lumps they felt in my lymph nodes were cancerous as well. This wasn’t the news I had hoped for… At. All. Back to the pub we went.
There is a Wetherspoons just opposite the Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield which I think is probably the most depressing place I’ve ever been in my life. The decor is nice enough and a mini bottle of prosecco is only about 3 quid (absolute BARGAIN) but it’s also the first watering hole you dive in to when you’ve just received bad news. So you can sit and try and drink yourself into oblivion on cheap fizz and forget about the fact you basically might die. I spent a few hours in there in November of 2019 let me tell you.
All of a sudden, I wasn’t invincible anymore. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep… but I had to hold it together because I may have cancer, but I’m also a mum. And a two year old doesn’t understand the word “cancer.”
Since then I’ve had a mastectomy and been blasted with some of the most potent chemotherapy drugs out there… I’ve taken on “The Red Devil” (EC) and battled my way through Docetaxel. Over 6 months of gruelling treatment. I’ve still got a way to go, but now the hardest part is behind me I am already looking forward, past radiotherapy, to whatever kind of normal my life will now be.
I’d like to think I’m a super positive person, I think I’m pretty strong, and I’ve done my best to get through this with a smile on my face. I felt so lonely when I first was diagnosed and I was DESPERATE to find someone else out there who had gone through what I was going through and could help me find some of the answers I was looking for. Having cancer at such a young age made me feel like I was on my own, gatecrashing a party for the over 50’s.
Writing is cathartic for me and I hope that by sharing my experience and the things I have learnt along the way, I can help bring hope to other young women faced with the same challenge that I’ve had to face, and help get them through a life changing diagnosis. We live in a world of fear, where people are too scared to get themselves checked out because they are terrified of what the answer could be. But when all is said and done, the Big C affects one in two people - and we don’t all die from it. Yes it’s shit, it’s absolutely, bone achingly, terrifyingly SHIT. But you’re not alone.
Check your boobs… now… yes, right this second (if you don't know how, take a look here). Make that appointment with your GP that you have been putting off. Early detection saves lives.
Until next time