Location: South Wales, UK
Diagnosis: Breast Cancer
I was diagnosed with ER positive breast cancer in July 2017 after finding a lump in my left armpit.
I have a family history of the disease, but it was a huge shock – I don’t think you ever expect it to be you.
My treatment consisted of 6 rounds of FEC-T chemotherapy, a left-side mastectomy with complete lymph node clearance and 15 sessions of radiotherapy. I count myself very lucky in ways – I was able to maintain a relatively normal life throughout treatment. I have two young boys and I was determined to not let this affect them too much. I recovered quickly from my operation and although I wasn't having immediate reconstruction, I coped well with one breast for a year whilst I was put on the wait list for my reconstructive surgery.
From the day that I was diagnosed, I was always keen to keep a positive mindset and power on through with strength and determination.
At the time I worried that showing emotion was a weakness and I didn’t want people to see me upset. I was very mindful of my family and friends and wanted to make sure I remained upbeat around them, as I knew how difficult it must be for them too.
When I received my date for reconstructive surgery I was over the moon. I made a huge deal of the fact that I was going to have two breasts again and I went into my surgery smiling. The surgery I selected was a bilateral DIEP – this involved removing my remaining right breast and reconstructing both breasts with tissue from my stomach. I felt like this was the perfect surgery for me as it would give me more natural looking breasts.
My surgery took around 10 hours and when I woke up that evening I assumed everything had gone well. The following day my surgeon came to visit. They told me my surgery hadn’t quite gone to plan and they would need to monitor me to see if the blood vessels had connected and were working properly.
The next 24 hours were very stressful. By that evening it was confirmed that I would need to go back into surgery to have the newly reconstructed breasts removed. This was a really traumatic time for me and devastating as I’d put so much focus on having two breasts again, moving forward and getting back to 'normal'.
I left the hospital without any breasts and have been recovering from the two surgeries over the past 10 weeks. I was, of course, really upset by this. It was so unexpected. But I did my best to have a positive mindset and tried to focus on the good things in my life.
One thing I’ve realised throughout this experience is that it’s so important to open up and express your true feelings.
At first, I felt like the best way to get through this whole situation was to put my guard up and stay strong. Although I believe this helped me a lot, I don’t think I ever really faced up to what I was going through. I still don’t know if I have processed everything and I'm trying my best to open up more and deal with the feelings that I pushed so deep down. I know it will take time and I plan to have counselling to try and help me deal with everything that’s happened.
What I do know is that I feel very lucky to be here; to be able to continue to make more happy memories with my family and friends, to see my babies grow and to just enjoy life.
Cancer has taken a lot from me and has left me with physical and emotional scars, but that doesn’t mean that it has to rule the rest of my life.
I’m still here and I won’t let this experience consume me or my future. I have far too much girl power in me for that.
One piece of advice:
Talk, talk, talk. I know it can be difficult, but try your best to be open and honest about your feelings. It’s okay to not be okay sometimes. I think it’s so important to try and stay positive and look at the good things in life, but there’s also nothing wrong with facing your demons and trying to work through them.
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Brave Collective. While the information is considered to be true and correct at the date of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of the information.