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Sunday, April 3, 2011

I had cancer now I don’t - simps

Claire is the mother of two small children who, having found out that she carries the BRCA2 gene mutation which gives her an 85% chance of developing cancer, has made the brave decision to have a double mastectomy and also to have her ovaries removed.

The amazing Claire is now writing a blog to help raise awareness of the condition and to give hope to others in the same position.  See her story here

I found her story so moving that it has inspired me to write about my own experience of breast cancer in the hope that it might just help someone else.

My diagnosis was made following a routine mammogram.  You get the letter calling you to the hospital “for further investigation” and you tell yourself it will be nothing, then you are told you need a biopsy and you reassure yourself that it is just a precaution and all will be ok.

Then the day of “the results” arrived  and I sat with my husband as the consultant gave us the stomach churning  verdict that yes I did have breast cancer – very early stage he reassured me, but it was actually happening.  My reaction  “well that’s a bugger”.

I think that the worst part was having to tell my family, who knew about the tests.  They had said to ring them as soon as I knew anything – how do you tell your children and your elderly parents news like that?  I will never forget standing outside the hospital making those calls on my mobile.  I think I said something like “well its not the best news but its not the worst either” I had always been a  positive person – now I had to remain so more than ever.

I am a lot luckier than Claire, I am older for a start – my children are grown up and independent.  Also, I was never faced with the dilemma of whether to take preventive action – I was told that although very early stage, it was cancer – so I had no option but to have surgery.

Whatever critisisms people make of the NHS – I have to say that everyone who helped me through my treatment was brilliant, the nurses, the oncology doctors and my surgeons.  Like Claire I have nothing but admiration for the amazing plastic surgeon who performed my breast reconstruction – which I had done simultaneously with the mastectomy. I was also lucky that I didn’t need follow up therapies – just the surgery and I was finished.

My husband was amazing and supported me every step of the way.   I claim that he did more shopping, cooking and housework in the few weeks following my op that the previous 30 years of marriage, and he still likes to joke now that I milked it for all it was worth. 

They say that everything happens for a reason, and amazingly he had been made redundant about a month before my diagnosis – it was the first time in a 35 year career that he had ever been out of work so job hunting was put on hold and he was able to be with me and support me 24/7.

I remember reading a book in which Susan Jeffers talks of the good that came from her breast cancer and how she dealt with it better than she dealt with a bad hair perm and its so true.  We can cope with the bad things that life throws at us – with the support of my husband and his humour, and believe me there is a lot of mileage in a “boob job and tummy tuck”, and with the love of my children and family I came through the experience a stronger, and happier person.

Eighteen months on now and I rarely think about it. Of course, when I undress, the scars are there to remind me but I don’t even mind those now –  I can still wear a bikini so long as the pants aren’t too skimpy (and who want to see a lady of my years in skimpy pants anyway?)

In fact when an old friend recently asked how I was feeling and was I ok?  I thought he was referring to the cold I had been suffering from – now that really was bad!!

I hate the term “cancer survivor” I refuse to be defined by it – I had cancer now I don’t - simps.

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