Tavinder was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in 2014, one month after her husband Mark finished treatment for testicular cancer.
1. When were you diagnosed and what with?
I was diagnosed one month after Mark's treatment finished in 2014. I was diagnosed with breast cancer triple negative.
2. How did you find out you had cancer?
I discovered the lump by chance at work when looking into the mirror as my lump was high above my breast. I felt anxiety and went to A&E and was told it was most likely fluid in the lump and that it didn't have the same feel and look as cancer. I had an appointment with the GP and the doctor who examined me was uncertain as to what it was but toldd me to have a mammogram. After the tests - which were not only a mammogram but a ultrasound and also a biopsy - I was informed I had breast cancer.
3. What did you think and feel when you were diagnosed?
I was initially shocked and had an outer body experience. I felt that that all my strength had literally left me, as I had just supported Mark during his cancer experience. I felt like someone was playing a joke – I even asked the surgeon who told me whether someone was joking. I could not believe the news.
4. How did the people around you react?
I informed my family who were shocked and initially thought that I was telling them that the cancer had come back for Mark. I didn’t declare my illness to people on Facebook. Only a few people actually know I have had cancer and the people I told said 'good luck' and I had to simply get on with it.
5. What treatment did you have?
I had six cycles of chemotherapy combination (two of AC and 4 of Docetaxel), a mastectomy operation and 15 sessions of radiotherapy.
6. How did you feel through treatment?
The AC drug hit me hard, I felt as though I had a body of a 90 year-old. I had no energy and would sleep for the majority of the day. I also felt nausea and sickness with the drug. With the Docetaxel my energy felt better but I did have a rash with it, as well as bone pain. I was also neutropenic and was admitted into hospital for three days with a UTI infection. I was admitted into hospital again at the end of my last TAX due to a high temperature. With my operation I felt a lot of grief and emotion, as I didn’t want to loose my breast. I felt so much fear with the operation and felt anxiety. I felt disfigured afterwards and also had to work hard to get my mobility with my arm and to recover from fatigue. The radiotherapy was also exhausting and I didn’t like the machine and didn’t feel that was easy at all. All in all, I felt that the process of treatment was continuous and tiring and also extremely lengthy (a whole year!).
7. What happened after treatment finished?
I finished radiotherapy in 2014. I discussed going back to work and went onto a “moving on programme” with a breast cancer charity and also did a fitness programme for cancer patients at the YMCA (12 week programme). Subsequently, I have faced a huge amount of stress going back to work and had to undertake a grievance with my previous employer which took up all of 2015. This year I have managed to find another role and now I am working part-time within the Council.
8. How did you get involved with Shine?
I was researching groups when Mark had cancer and could not find anything. I actually came across Shine by chance on Facebook where I joined and went to social gatherings during my cancer treatment. I have been to the August camp, Shine meals and drinks and also the recent Shine Connect Conference.
9. What difference has Shine made to you?
Meeting other younger people who have had cancer and also couples who have faced cancer within the same time period has helped to not feel so alienated and isolated. Meeting new people and relating to people of similar age and also having a laugh and going out doing 'normal' activities not relating to cancer has been great. It has also increased my confidence again with meeting people and going out again after having cancer. Lastly meeting inspirational people who are facing difficulties but are positive and supportive and caring has been a real bonus.
10. How do you feel now about your experiences? What‘s been the biggest change you’ve faced?
I feel it has caused me a sense of loss and grief. I feel the cancer has infringed on our marriage. The way the roles reversed between us was so quick and we didn’t have time to get back to a routine. So much of our time together has been with cancer so I’ve found it difficult readjusting back to 'normal'. I still fear the cancer coming back. I also still feel fatigued and work part-time. I feel a deep sense of grief over not having the choice to have children when I want to and I feel a sense of confusion as to what lies ahead.
11. If you could give one piece of advice to yourself before your what would it be?
Take one day at a time, don’t be so hard on yourself. Enjoying the simple things in life, and do not put so much pressure and expectations on myself. Do meditation and take some more time out for me and don’t take on other people's problems!