My Breast Cancer Journey
Author - Sarah Hall
Do you regularly check your breasts? We are often too busy as mums looking after everyone around us but this is one thing we shouldn't be neglecting.
This month is Breast Cancer awareness month. I've teamed up with one of our recent blog contriubutors Sarah @ The Little Signers Club. Here Sarah very bravely shares with us her own Breast Cancer journey.
Regularly checking your breasts is not something that is on most people’s agenda in their twenties, it certainly wasn’t on mine. Breast cancer is often seen as something that only happens to ‘older’ people and those of the younger generation often feel exempt of such diseases.
Back in January 2016, when I was 27 years old, my life changed drastically. While sitting on the sofa with my husband watching TV, I found a lump in my right breast. I found it completely by chance. I went straight to the doctors the next day to get it checked out. I was then referred to the breast clinic, but was told it was most likely benign and it was nothing to worry about. Ten days later I got diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer (a very aggressive form of breast cancer). Complete and utter shock doesn't even begin to describe how I felt that day! I was in my first year of university studying to become a Speech and Language Therapist and suddenly everything was crumbling around me.
Two weeks later I started on Chemotherapy, I had 11 rounds of chemo in total. Halfway through my chemo, despite having a weak family history of cancer, I found out my cancer was genetic and was told I had a BRCA1 mutation (which leaves me at a much higher risk of developing both breast and ovarian cancer over my lifetime). My auntie then got diagnosed with ovarian cancer just a few weeks after my diagnosis and it all started to fit together. Amazingly chemo didn’t make me feel too unwell and I was able to carry on with my studies and sit all my summer exams. My university studies really helped to keep me going and gave me something to focus on. I lost all my hair due to the treatment, including my eyebrows and eyelashes as well. That was really tough, but I had lots of fun playing around with different wigs and I even braved going out bald a few times - it felt very liberating.
After finishing chemo I then went on to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction. I had my breasts reconstructed from tissue from my inner thighs - it’s incredible what surgeons are able to do these days, and I even wrote a song about it, which I called “thigh titties”. Finally, I finished with 15 sessions of radiotherapy. It was an incredibly difficult time for myself, my friends and family, but I was so grateful to have a wonderful support network around me to help me through it.
It’s now been over four and a half years since my diagnosis and I’m pleased to say I’m still cancer free. Despite having a lot of chemotherapy (which, can have huge impact on your fertility) I’ve also been lucky enough to become a first-time mum this year to my gorgeous little girl Maddison. Grateful does not even come close to how I feel every day to still be here enjoying life with my lovely family. I’ve had many dark times and sleepless nights since my diagnosis. Not just throughout my treatment but mainly when the treatment all stopped. One thing many people don’t understand is the fear of reoccurrence. Obviously always well intended people always comment “so you’re all clear now then?” the scariest thing about cancer is you never really know and it can always come back, that’s one thing I found incredibly difficult to get my head around, and that fear was sometimes debilitating. Luckily my form of cancer is very unlikely to return after the 5 year mark and that 5 years is coming up very soon.
I feel incredibly passionate about spreading the word of the importance of regularly checking your breasts, particularly for the younger generation. It's really important to me that something good can come from something as rubbish as having a cancer diagnosis and that good is AWARENESS! So about a year after my diagnosis I started working as a volunteer for the breast cancer awareness charity CoppaFeel!
CoppaFeel! was founded in 2009 by Kristin Hallenga and her twin sister Maren. Kris was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer at the incredibly young age of 23. After finding a lump at 22, living abroad in China for 8 months and eventually visiting her doctor 3 times, Kris was told the news that she had incurable breast cancer. Although Kris will always live with cancer, she wanted to get the message out there to young people that catching cancer early means you have a higher chance of surviving and recovering. She wanted people to learn from her story and become pro-active about their own health. The idea for CoppaFeel! was born. My role as a ‘Boobette’ for CoppaFeel! involves going into workplaces, schools and colleges (wherever will have me) to share my story, encouraging individuals to check their boobs and pecs regularly from a young age (yes that’s right men can get breast cancer too and they should also be checking). Educating individuals on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and finally empowering people to seek advice from a doctor if symptoms persist. My role as a Boobette has led to many visits to secondary schools in the local area and even a visit to my old school ‘Rickmansworth School’. My volunteer work for CoppaFeel! has almost acted as a kind of therapy for me and helped me to process what happened to me. Even if my work means that one more person starts regularly checking their breasts then it’s 100% worth it.
As individuals we need to be taking control of our own health. Mammograms are not routinely provided until the age of 50 and even then it’s every 3 years. Before that, the power is in our hands. Regularly checking means you have a baseline and when you go to check next month, you can tell if something feels ‘not quite right’. To find out more about how to check and the signs and symptoms head to CoppaFeel!’s website below. They have lots of wonderful resources and you can even order a fabulous boob checking shower sticker.
Thank you so much to Sarah for sharing her story with us. What a journey she has been on and what a positive outcome too.
You can read Sarah's cancer blog here https://whenthingsgotitsupblog.wordpress.com/about/
Sarah also wrote a song about her 'thigh titties' the day before her surgery https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKG0jSEf7d4
Please share this story with friends and family and lets get to know our Breasts.
#breastcancer #breastcancerawareness #coppafeel