Michelle, 33, breast cancer
How did you find out you had cancer?
I originally noticed an indentation back in May 2011, but didn’t pay too much attention, as I had just got up and thought I had laid awkwardly on something during the night!! It wasn’t until the August 2011 that I spotted it again, after having a shower. Initially I shrugged it off, but I had a funny feeling in the back of my mind. I had lost my great aunt the year before to cancer and she had said something very directly & specific to me, before she died. All I could hear in my mind was her saying, ‘If you have anything wrong with you, no matter how small you think it is, get it checked out, don’t ignore it’. I also then decided to google ‘Indentation in Breast’, which as you can imagine sent me into panic mode, so I arranged a visit to my G.P.
What did you think/feel when you were diagnosed?
When I was finally diagnosed, all I could think of was ‘Thank god for that’. I know it sounds a bizarre reaction, but I was so relieved when the Dr told me I had Breast Cancer, because in my mind I knew that something could be done. I had answers, I knew there would be a step by step plan, which I could deal with. The thing I couldn’t deal with was the not knowing, the waiting. The 2 weeks between the mammogram/biopsy and the results were the longest 2 weeks in my life. I knew it would be tough, but I had the attitude that it was something that had to be done. Yes, it’s going to suck, I’m going to be ill, but the long term looked good for me.
How did the people around you react?
I initially kept it quiet, I only told my best friend Daisy about the mammogram and biopsy, as I didn’t want to scare my family unnecessary. Daisy was fantastic and came with me. I then told my Sister and my Aunt and they came with me to get my results. Following which I told the remainder of my family and friends (my father lives in New Zealand and had not long returned, so it was hardest for him, being so far away). Everyone was so supportive and obviously in shock, in fact two of my best friends decided to shave their hair off in support. We got a group of family and friends over and had a massive party to celebrate it. We raised money for Breast Cancer Care and raised a fantastic £2000.
What treatment did you have? Lumpectomy & Sentinal Lymph Node Biopsy, Chemotherapy (FEC-T), followed by 4 weeks (20 sessions) of Radiotherapy and now onto 5 years of Tamoxifen
How did you feel through treatment?
To be honest, I was pretty lucky initially with side effects, I felt ok on the first part of Chemo. I would get tired in the afternoons, but other than that the usual change in taste. When it got to the Taxotere (Docetaxal), that was the worst part, I started to lose my hair, I found it difficult to walk any kind of distance or up stairs etc, I also had problems with infection/temperature spike and ended up in hospital for 3 days with Neutropenic Sepsis. I also had a line inserted as my veins collapsed after the first lot of chemo and I had no end of problems with it not flushing properly! Percy my Picc line, as I called him, was a pain in the arse!
What happened after treatment finished?
Not a great deal happened after treatment finished, I had a few more weeks off work, to ensure I was fit enough to return. I had a check up with the Oncologist, who got me started on Tamoxifen and that was about it. It was strange to go from weekly nurse visits, Drs appointments, hospital, to then suddenly being alone!
How did you get involved with Shine?
On one of my first visits to my Oncologist to discuss my treatment plan, I was handed a couple of leaflets on various things. Including the Shine leaflet. The problem I had was too much information going around my head and not wanting to be a burden on the nurses, as they have so many other people to see. I also didn’t want to put too much on my family and friends, as although they have been supportive, they haven’t been through it themselves. One day I just looked at the leaflet and thought to myself, ‘Why not, give it a go, I’m sure there’s someone else out there that can help ease some of the stress and help answer some of my questions’. So I sent a message online and the rest they say is history!
It’s indescribable the difference it has made. Everyone has been so helpful and friendly, easy to get on with and a good laugh, which is what I needed. Yes, it’s good to talk about things and ask people questions to help you understand things a bit more. What works, what doesn’t etc. But I think the most important bit, is being able to have a good time and try and be positive about things, which the girls at Shine are.
How do you feel now about your experiences?
Relieved it’s all over. Thankful for the help and support I’ve had and to be alive. Happy to have come away with some fantastic new friends.
If you could give one piece of advice to yourself before your diagnosis & treatment what would it be?
Not to be stubborn or afraid to ask for help if you need it.