Being diagnosed with cancer (any type of it) is really downing and life-changing. This is my real story of a breast cancer survivor-ish.
As you might already know or figured out, breast cancer occurs especially in women and develops in the breast cells and tissue.
There are plenty of breast cancer symptoms, so I’m not gonna go through all of them. But, as a rule of thumb, if you notice a lump or any change in your breasts’ shape, size, color, or appearance, you NEED to make an appointment with your doctor for proper evaluation.
With that being said, my name is Christine and I’m a cancer survivor. Here’s how I found I have breast cancer and the entire process until my doctor classed my case as stable.
Diagnose: Incurable Breast Cancer
The first signs of breast cancer appeared when I started to get a pain in my shoulder and began to feel really tired.
I went to my doctor who carried out an initial liver test. At first, they suggested that it might be hepatitis as I had just returned from a holiday in Turkey.
Eventually, hepatitis was ruled out and I was referred to a liver consultant after the doctor linked the pain in my shoulder with my liver. Then, just a week before my appointment, I found a lump in my breast.
At the appointment with the liver consultant, they examined my breasts and it was at this point that I began to worry that something might be wrong.
I was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer. The cancer that I have is incurable and I found out that the shoulder pain that I had been experiencing was caused by a tumor in my liver, where the cancer had spread from my breast.
Telling My Loved-Ones The Bad News
At the time I was diagnosed with cancer I wasn’t married and had only been living with my partner, Ray, for about a year. It was a big shock for both of us, however, he took it very well.
I felt bad for him as he had lost one of his parents to cancer 10 years earlier and he was having to live through it all again.
I’m an only child so it was very difficult to tell my parents. They’re divorced and my father lives in France for most of the year so I told my mother in person but had to tell my dad over the phone.
My mother took the news very hard and went to pieces, she still finds it difficult now. I understand that it must be difficult to think about the possibility of your child dying before you.
I also have a 12-year-old stepson so I had to break the news to him too. We’ve been honest with him about the cancer and the treatment, and we always tell him that he can ask any questions, which we’ll try our best to answer for him. He’s quite accepting of the cancer and what I am going through, which has made things easier.
In terms of friends, most have been great but you definitely find out who your real friends are. There have been some people who I haven’t heard from since they found out. I now know which friends I can rely on though.
I think people don’t know what to say, but it’s nice if they just call, they don’t have to always say “the right thing“.
Going Through Chemotherapy
The doctors initially said that I would have six sessions of chemotherapy. But I ended up having eight as they wanted to make sure that everything was knocked on the head.
After the first session, I started to lose my hair. I was determined to keep my hair for as long as possible because it was my birthday two days before I had my second session.
I tried the “cold cap treatment“, by literally wearing a cold cap on my head. This is supposed to stop the chemotherapy drugs from reaching the hair follicles. But that didn’t work and unfortunately, it started to fall out.
After the sixth week of treatment, I decided to shave my hair off. One of the main effects of the chemotherapy was tiredness. Sometimes I couldn’t get myself out of bed and had to just let the medication do its thing.
While I was going through the chemotherapy, I was trying to stay at work as much as possible. It kept my thoughts away from the cancer. I didn’t want the cancer to take over my life.
Life After Chemo
Although things at work went well at first, in the end, I got so stressed out that my doctor signed me off work for a year. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to leave my job so I retired 18 months ago.
Most people who experience breast cancer have access to a breast care nurse. But there are limited numbers of nurses available and unfortunately, I wasn’t provided with one.
This had a big impact on me, as not having someone to ask difficult questions and just be there for me was quite hard to cope with at times.
Eventually, I found Breast Cancer Care, which provided me with the right information when I needed it.
The medical treatment that I’ve received has helped to shrink the tumor in my liver from 9cm to 4cm. The lump in my breast has also gone down but it is still there. The doctors have classed my cancer as stable.
I now go through Herceptin three times a week, which is a type of therapy designed to stop the growth of the tumor. And I also receive palliative care by attending regular medical appointments. They help to ensure that I am not in any pain.
I receive, what my consultant calls, a full MOT! Other than my regular medical appointments, I live a fairly normal life, if someone saw me they probably wouldn’t realize that I was ill.
However, as my cancer is incurable, I can’t be sure how long I have left.
Helping Others With Breast Cancer
My advice to other people who are going through breast cancer is not to be afraid to ask questions of your consultant or your nurse, if you have a question just ask.
I asked about medical trials too; not only might trials help me but they could also benefit someone else in the future.
Speaking about my experience with cancer also helps to raise awareness about the disease. So I try to do a lot of media work to publicize breast cancer.
I want to do as much as I can to help other people. If others can learn or benefit from my experience, then I want to help.