Strolling into my follow-up appointment at the hospital I wasn’t nervous at all. I’d found a lump in my right breast but I was only 35, I had two children which I had breastfed and there was no family history of breast cancer in my family.
“Oh. You’ve come alone? No one came with you?”Those few words from my breast care nurse made my heart sink and I knew it wasn’t going to be good news. I walked into a tiny room and my consultant used the words “I’m so sorry. It’s cancer”.
I can honestly say I have no idea what happened next. I got bombarded with a whole load of leaflets and told lots of different information, which flew over my head. The only thing I took away from it was that it hadn’t spread and that I wouldn’t need any chemotherapy; at least that’s what I was told at the time.
Fast forward a couple of months and my consultant had discovered it had spread to the lymph nodes in my underarm. This meant not only did I have to have a full mastectomy but I was due a course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Of course the first thing I asked was if I was going to lose my hair. Yes. Out of everything I was most upset about losing my hair (which I have now discovered is the first thing the majority of people ask).
Luckily I was offered something called cold-capping. It’s a cap which you wear during your treatment which helps to stop the chemotherapy drugs reaching your hair follicles and can help to save your hair. Although I lost a fair amount of it I wasn’t completely bald and it actually started growing back whilst I was on my second set of chemo drugs.
Unfortunately, with chemotherapy the drugs don’t just target the cancer cells, it’s not that refined. Instead, it affects the good cells too. Your white blood cells are affected and you have to give yourself a course of injections in your stomach to help build these back up; after every cycle of chemotherapy. It also isn’t just having your hair fall out. There are a lot of other side effects that you can suffer with too: constipation, fatigue, loss of taste, complete hair loss over your body, nail discolouration and lifting off of the nail bed.
The worst part of it all, in my experience, was the effect it had on my mind. To go from being a semi-healthy person to being bedridden and unable to play with my children for a week at a time was really difficult. I suffered from depression and ended up having therapy throughout my treatments and beyond.
Radiotherapy was another challenge. Although it was a lot faster than the chemo experience travelling to the hospital every day, Monday to Friday, it was really tiring. Once all of my therapies were completed my body was completely useless.
I’m now on a monthly injection, which is pushing me into an early menopause and daily tablets which help to reduce the production of my hormones that fuelled my cancer. These, in themselves, cause problems but they’re helping to (hopefully) keep my cancer at bay. Oh and I am rocking the most amazing chemo curls ever!
The whole ordeal was really difficult. I’d recently split from my husband and my children and I had to move back in with my parents. In hindsight though it was the perfect place to be as my parents really helped with not just looking after the kids but me too.
Having a cancer diagnosis really changes your outlook on life. I’ve managed to prioritise what is important to me and I don’t stress over the little things anymore. I’ve managed to finally deal with anxiety I’ve never addressed and I am the fittest I have ever been in my adult life.
I only talk about my experience because I want to highlight how important it is to be aware of our bodies and any changes in them. There is no shame to be felt from having cancer and with statistics showing that 1 in 2 people will experience cancer it’s even more important to be in sync with our bodies; age, race and family history don’t even factor into it in most cases.
Although a cancer diagnosis is not something that anyone wants there is most definitely a life after it; in my case this one is even better than the one I had before.
Sukhy is a part time charity volunteer, lover of cake, dancing and talking! She hopes to make the world a better place by sharing all of the experiences she's been through in the last few years in the hopes of inspiring anyone else that may be in the same position.