Surviving cancer is as much about catching it early and being positive about the outcome, as it is about the treatment. I am Carolann Bruce, and I am a breast cancer survivor, but only because I refused to take no for an answer. A dream …
Tag: breast cancer treatment
Whilst 2020 has been a terrible year for everyone thanks to COVID-19, cancer has continued impact the lives of so many people. Which means that it’s been more important that ever to provide support and advice for those going through breast cancer treatment and those …
This is a powerful piece from Anne about where she is now, following breast cancer.
October 2019 and a dark cloud has started to just hover occasionally…I’m weepy on a daily basis, not sleeping and can’t be bothered to eat.
One more thing to contend with, I think to myself. I’m fed up of one more thing to deal with.
I finished active treatment December 21st 2018 for a non-invasive intermediate stage DCIS. It was a sneaky cancer – no lump. Just in there hidden amongst a radial scar.
I had an elective hysterectomy in September 2017, complicated by fibroids.
Left my ovaries in thankfully.
More gynae surgery the following May 2018. I’ve never had so much time off sick.
I’m a senior sister in a busy London hospital and I’ve gone from having no time off work to two episodes of long-term sickness within a year and an informal warning.
July 2nd 2018, routine mammogram (I was still off sick thankfully). I was 48.
July 9th 2018, recall letter for another mammogram, ultrasound and possible biopsy. I knew the score, I’m not stupid.
July 23rd 2018, two more mammograms, an ultrasound and six biopsies.
1st August 2018, “I’m very sorry but we’ve found cancer in your right breast. It’s 3mm”.
And there started the rollercoaster.
My mum who was with me through all the appointments, wanted it to be her not me.
My dad was in tears.
My son at 20 was gutted.
My 17-year-old daughter went quiet and clingy.
The day after diagnosis I went to work for my first day back after my gynae surgery. I had no choice…. any more time off sick and I’d start to hit half pay. Single mum with a mortgage….
September 11th 2018, funny, same date as my hysterectomy and I was having a lumpectomy.
I took a photo of my boobs as they were.
September 19th 2019, results day… “we got it all”.
I cried…. gave the surgeon a hug.
“We’ll refer you to oncology for a discussion on radiotherapy.”
October 3rd 2018, met oncologist at the Royal Marsden. It’s a cancer hospital. I chose to have my surgery at the other hospital where I was diagnosed. I didn’t want to be at a cancer hospital.
Radiotherapy: 15 sessions. ER 8/8, but I’m not recommended to take Tamoxifen.
October 5th 2018, planning CT. “You’re still bruised.”
Radiotherapy planned for end of October.
Slight issue before that. I got an infected haematoma and the scar opened up.
19th October 2018, back in for evacuation and washout of infected haematoma.
That’s four operations in thirteen months.
My daughter was off to Barbados that day for a school trip to play netball. She was fretting. My son was anxious. I felt shit.
Dressing changes three times a week for four weeks. More antibiotics. It was my third course in less than three weeks.
I got used to the clinic, the nurses, the coffee that my mum used to buy me on every visit.
Radiotherapy was delayed for six weeks. It started finally on 3rd December 2018.
I went back to work on 18th December 2018 on my phased return. I had no choice but to work as my half pay had commenced.
Day 10 of radiotherapy and a red raised area appeared. Looked like cellulitis. More antibiotics.
It got lumpier and more squashy.
Eventually after two weeks of backwards and forwards between the cancer hospital, my other hospital and my work hospital, the abscess was dealt with locally by giving it a good squeeze.
I was shattered. The radiotherapy effects kicked in during the zapping. I was not only tired but incredibly nauseated. It hit me hard two weeks after, then it carried on.
The fatigue hit me really hard again after three -four months.
People just don’t get it. It’s like walking through treacle.
I still get intermittent bouts of extreme fatigue…. which annoys me, but I try to manage it by exercising and going to the gym.
I still get an irritating cough and strangely get a bit breathless. My boob is still sore when I do too much.
No-one gets the emotional trauma and no-one sees the hidden changes. The changes to relationships whether it be stronger or weaker.
No-one gets the trauma of having your first mammogram post diagnosis and the wait for results.
I can’t be bothered with a lot of friends because of what they said.
My kids have both gone to university and dropped out because of the effect it’s had on them.
My twenty-one year-old son suffers from anxiety.
My daughter probably the same because she thinks she’s going to get it too.
I get ongoing pain in my lower abdomen and around my right ovary. I had endometriosis in the past. It’s probably still there, but I went to my GP just in case. I had an ultrasound. It was ok, but I fretted.
My friends said “Is something else wrong with you now?”
A friend who I did my nurse training with couldn’t handle my diagnosis. I don’t see her much now. I can’t be bothered with her anxiety.
I’m avoiding people.
I’ve lost my confidence at work. I’ve been a nurse for thirty-one years and now I can’t do it. I find it difficult to see past a medical history with “Breast Cancer” written in notes.
I’ve got both kids at home and it’s hit me now about what I’ve been through and I cry most days. Perhaps it is a touch of PTSD.
My divorce (yaaay) finally came through in March this year…. that added to the hysterectomy, the other gynae operation and the cancer.
I’m shit scared about recurrence.
I hate checking my boobs as there was no lump in the first place.
I hate feeling rubbish and tired.
I hate looking at my boob. It’s still there, but more scarred from the radiotherapy abscess than the original operation. But it’s wonky with a dent in it.
I was in a marriage for twenty-three years with a very controlling man who was verging on alcoholism. Now I’m being controlled by my boobs.
I have met someone… I’ve known him for twenty-five years. He’s lovely and tells me I’m beautiful. We talk lots. He’s used to me being an emotional old bird.
I’m 50 on Valentine’s Day. My kids want to throw me a party. But I can’t seem to plan that far ahead.
by Alejandra Solis, the Honest Cancer Mum
Diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer with bone metastasis, February 2018. I am the mummy of two gorgeous kids, 8 and 5, and wife to a lovely husband. I write a blog honestcancermum.blogspot.com and share on most social media channels.
1.After the initial shock, life carries on
When I got diagnosed and heard the doctor say the words ‘you’ve got stage 4 breast cancer’ the world stood still, every horrible scenario went through my mind. I cried non-stop. But after a while I realised that actually life carries on, this is non-optional, it just does. I am a firm believer that the problem is never the problem, your attitude toward the problem is. I chose to be naively positive.
I took some time off to let it all sink in, be angry, cry etc… Then practical things needed organising: childcare, house work, kids need feeding, clothes need washing, house work needs to be done. In a way it’s exhausting but it also brings normality to your new life. Kids are amazing at keeping you going.
2.The cancer guilt is always there, especially when you are a mum
Kids have a funny sense of humour and a completely different way of seeing things. We decided to be straight with our kids. We told them what was going on. My 8 years old got it, and was sad and anxious but my 4 year old didn’t really get it and just said: “just rest mummy, you’ll be better soon”, which is what I say to her.
We have tried to keep life as normal for them, but kids are cleaver and they sense things. We are very open about it (not about the bone mets, this is too much to take on but about everything else). After all, it is our new normal, we are in for the long run and unfortunately, they are part of it.
My family is the reason to keep going. Being a good mummy and wife whilst my heart was breaking has been the hardest thing I have ever had to do.
3.Cancer is a party pooper
Every milestone is a bitter sweet moment. When you are a planner like me, it’s hard to know your long-term plans might have to be rushed a little bit.
We, as a couple have plans, and it’s scary and sad to know I might not be here. I really hope I am, but you just never know. So, we plan to live every day as best as we can.
The kids are the worst triggers. My little girl talks about her wedding and having babies etc, and I just hope I get to see the day. My eldest wants to be an artist and live in a treehouse with his best friend… I wonder what type of jobs they will have, what will they look like, will they be ok? Will my cancer affect them growing up? If and when I die, will they cope? Will my husband be ok? Oh it’s horrible, the uncertainty of a life sentence, for a crime I did not commit, just bad bad luck!
4.Being creative is a sword of two very sharp edges
2018 was a horrible year, especially if you have a big imagination like me, it’s hard to control your mind and stop it going to dark places.
I have planned my funeral, kind of. I know what I want, I have updated my will, I have spoken to my husband about it all. He was not impressed. It’s not something I am planning to do soon, and I am hopefully that oncology will eventually find a cure for it all, but if not… it will be a very nice big pink firework that spells ‘CIAO’.
5.You become THE cancer person
Even though I look the same and feel well, people do treat me differently. They ask ‘how are you?” with a different tone, they look at me like I am a wounded puppy.
I am very lucky to have a great support network. I can’t imagine going through everything without them. They been a shoulder to cry on or to laugh with hysterically. They have cooked, dragged me out the house, they even made me join the gym. It’s amazing what happens when women support each other. Raising kids takes a village, my village has been the best village ever, and I will be forever grateful for have amazing and family and friends.
6.You bring mortality to the people around you
Some friends have taken my diagnosis quite hard, some actually stopped talking to me for a while or tried to avoid me at the playground. One of them came forward after a while, and said she just couldn’t handle my diagnosis – she was gutted for me, but it also scared her. She said that if it happened to me, it could happen to her, or anyone at such a young age.
It’s true, before my diagnosis I felt invincible, I felt like my long life was guaranteed and I never ever though that the safe feeling would be taken away from me in a single 20 min appointment.
7.You become an expert in oncology
Since my diagnosis, I have read every article, every research published, every forum post, I joined Facebook groups, I talked to anybody that would listen, doctors, oncologists, nurses, other patients, I have contacted Oxford and other universities who are researching cancer, trying to find a cure, I have offered my diagnosis and to an extent my body to help them help me.
But at the end, my life is in the hands of my amazing oncologist, Dr M, who I trust and believe he has my back, literally! Finding an oncologist that gets you is important. Clicking is important. I know we will never be BFFs and go for drinks, mainly because he is possibly not allowed to, but I needed my oncologist to see me as a person, not a number. Placing my life in his expert hands is ok, although I like to be in control and I like understanding the decisions being made. And I like to think of myself as part of the team… after all, it’s my body, my life.
I live alone. I am not unusual. 30% of households in the UK comprise a single adult . It seems likely, then, that about a third of cancer patients live alone. So why, in the kilos of leaflets I’ve been given since my diagnosis, could …