Guest blog: Ticking Off breast cancer – been there done that and got the t-shirt. So here goes……….
I’m Jo a 46-year-old single mum to two children, Bobby my son aged 13 and Harrie my daughter aged 11.
I was diagnosed with stage 3 HER2 positive breast cancer on 23rd March 2017 at the age of 43, in my left breast. This was one week after I had biopsies taken. It was a quick 10 minutes hospital appointment in which I was told ‘here you are its cancer and its quite aggressive’. Simple.
This I could kind of deal with as I never doubted, I would beat it. However, on 17 March 2017, 6 days previous, my precious mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer in many places with the primary being breast cancer. This was the worst news possible and mum had only been ill a really short time.
It took some time for my planned treatment to be sorted, and during this time my then husband and I went on a pre booked family holiday to Jamaica with our children. It was during this holiday I had to tell my children I had cancer. I can still remember where we were all sat and how the conversation took place and what was said. Such a horrible thing to have to tell my then 10 and 7-year-old children, who were currently also dealing with the news their grandma was poorly. I played down the severity of my cancer but was so difficult not being able to tell them that I was going to be fine.
I had my first round of chemotherapy on 02 May 2017. This was my mums 70th birthday. Instead of being on the big planned family holiday in Portugal to celebrate mum’s milestone birthday, I was sat in the chemo ward in hospital like a rabbit in the headlights not knowing what was going to happen and how I would be feeling.
Losing my hair was a huge issue to me. I did not have much confidence and my hair was something to hide behind so the thought of having no hair was major. The night before my second round of chemo my son Bobby shaved my hair and my daughter wiped away my tears.
My last chemo was on 15th August 2017, it was a huge relief to get to my last session. It had however been a long four months with numerous hospital appointments for myself coupled with loads of appointments for my mum. In reality I didn’t have time to deal with my cancer and the chemo was a means to an end for me and concentrating on mum was more important.
I had a mastectomy and reconstruction on September 24, 2017. It was painful and a weird process having your breast removed, but again my main thoughts were mum at this time. Mum could only visit me once as she was too ill to travel to hospital. The hardest thing at times was whilst I was in hospital, that I just wanted my mum and she couldn’t be there for me.
I was given the great news that my cancer was gone, and I did not need radiotherapy on 6th October. The relief was huge, but the best thing was being able to tell the kids and my mum. Mum passed away two weeks after my all clear. This was the worse time ever and I had lots of anger issues towards cancer and feelings of why me and why my mum.
I had Herceptin injections for another 9 months, and I’m on tamoxifen which has caused problems with my womb and bones, and I still attend at hospital for regular checks, the thing with cancer never goes away. I kind of felt totally lost after my Herceptin injections stopped, the crutch of the chemo ward was taken away from me.
I think my cancer had more of an effect on me than I realised. Also losing mum at the same time was life changing. So much so that my marriage ended 5 months later. Therefore, I was a mess and drank alcohol more than I should have done. I have now made the decision not to drink. The emotional turmoil of cancer and my reliance on alcohol to cope caused me to have so many anxiety issues that life is now much easier without alcohol.
Cancer took control of my life and I was totally subservient to it. I have always been in control of everything in my life and this was hard to deal with. This was something I really struggled with along with my life being on hold. The one thing I’ve learnt from cancer is to remain positive and life does go on. There isn’t a day I don’t think about what if it comes back and every ache and pain is a worry, but I guess this is normal and I’m kind of used to it now.
Ticking off breast cancer has been a major chapter in my life and I’m grateful to get through and move onto the next one.