This week’s guest blog is from Hannah. She was just 25 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Whilst watching her friends get engaged, get married, have babies and go travelling, Hannah was going through grueling cancer treatment…
At the age of 25, I was living my life. I had just moved into my first house with my partner, Christmas had just been and we had just got back from Spain after spending New Year in Lloret de Mar. I returned to work after the new year break, and I was in the shower when I found ‘the lump’. It was in the inner, upper quadrant of my breast. I dashed out of the shower and asked my partner to have a feel. He said ‘it feels like a bruise under your skin. I don’t think it will be anything to worry about, Han’. However, I did worry. A lot. I went to the out of hours GP the following night with him, and they said it didn’t feel like anything sinister. They felt my lymph nodes; none were inflamed. They asked me had breast cancer been in my family. Cancer? What? No. This hadn’t properly crossed my mind until then. The GP said ‘if it’s still there in a month, go and see your GP. I’m pretty sure it’s just hormones.’
I waited. 3 weeks went by, and ‘the lump’ felt twice the size, so I didn’t wait around. My mum told me that I needed to ask for a referral to the breast clinic and to allow them to have a proper look. My own GP was convinced it was a cyst. He asked all the questions ‘do you smoke? How much do you drink? Do you have breast cancer in your family?’ That question again resonated with me. I got my referral. 2 weeks later, I was sat in the breast clinic and I was having thorough checks. The specialist also initially thought I had a cyst, and sent me off to ultra sound to have it drained. A wave of utter happiness traveled through both mine and my dad’s body. Nothing sinister. No mention of the word ‘cancer’.
Whilst I was in ultra sound, I pointed out the lump to the sonographer. She ran the doppler over it. And again. And again. I asked her ‘how will you drain it?’ She plainly said ‘it’s not a cyst. I’m going to get my consultant. I’ll be back in a minute.’ I panicked at this point, and began to cry. My dad was sat outside, unaware of what was happening. The consultant came in and ran the doppler over ‘the lump’, and said ‘we are going to take biopsies, as we are not sure what it is that we can see.’ Then these words then came quietly out of my mouth: ‘do you think it’s cancer?’ The consultant looked at me and said ‘we are not sure. We are pretty sure it won’t be anything given your history and your age. Come back in a week for your results.’
I felt the lump every day hoping it had got smaller each time, and I convinced myself in my own head that it did.
On the 19th February 2019, I attended the breast clinic with my parents to get my results. We were all worried. My name was eventually called and I was shown into a small room. There were 2 chairs, and my dad offered to stand. He was met with the words ‘I think you might need to sit down. I will get you a chair’, he gulped and looked at me and I could see the worry in his face.
The consultant came in, and said ‘you came to us as you presented with a lump. We weren’t sure what it was, so we tested it. Unfortunately Hannah, it is actually a breast cancer.’ At that point, I felt like I was in someone else’s nightmare. Myself and my partner were trying for a baby, and to be told that I would need to freeze my eggs as I may not be fertile after chemotherapy crushed me. I was 25. How on earth could I have breast cancer? I did in fact have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma which was HER2+. My consultant assured me that they were going to work fast. I was told that I was to have chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy- ‘gold standard treatment’.
On the 1st April 2019, I began the first of 6 rounds of chemotherapy. I watched my friends going out, going on holiday, getting engaged and there was me, losing my hair, too sick to get out of bed, unable to work and putting on lots of weight due to the medically induced menopause. I looked in the mirror and I didn’t recognise myself. The day came on the 15th July 2019 where I had completed chemotherapy, and it was very much a feeling of sadness as I worried that the cancer would grow back before surgery – a double mastectomy.
I always wondered if I would have a ‘boob job’ in later life. Some people presumed that what I was having was a ‘boob job’, in fact, it was life-saving and preventative surgery. I felt even less like a woman knowing that this was the operation going ahead. I was going in bald, looking like an old man and coming out with boobs that were no longer mine! At 25, you never imagine to be making these big life decisions, you imagine making decisions on your next holiday or what you will be calling your baby if you have one.
Having cancer has somewhat changed me for the better. I have realised who is really there for me, and I am able to block out those who haven’t been there for me from a young enough age! It puts life into perspective, and I have realised that I need to live every day like it’s my last. I have saved my own life, by pushing for my appointment and by being breast aware. I can only encourage others to do the same, even though we’re young, breast cancer can still happen to us!