You never know what is around the corner do you and sometimes you are not prepared to hear news that can completely turn your life around and stop your usual every day routine in its tracks.
This happened to me on 7th June 2013 when I heard the devastating news that I had Breast Cancer. I had felt a sharp pain in my left breast on 31st May when trying on a dress. When I removed the dress I noticed a hard swollen area covering half of my breast (not a lump initially) and a slight discoloration to the skin. I hadn’t noticed this before but it was enough of a change for me to see a Dr as soon as I could. (It was typically a weekend!)
A whirlwind week followed where I was thrown into complete panic. I googled symptoms and Breast Cancer was popping up everywhere. Within seven days I had a Mammogram and Ultrasound Scan. I was then told I was showing signs of Inflammatory Breast Cancer a rare and aggressive form of cancer. They took six core biopsies (four from my left breast and two from my armpit) which confirmed abnormalities and I had to wait another agonising seven days before I knew at what stage the cancer was at. During this time I also had a CT Scan and Bone Scan.
For anybody who has been through this process you will understand why I was unable to concentrate on anything. I am 43 with two wonderful children (age 16 and 12). I started Beautilicious40Bride a year ago and have worked tirelessly promoting my business. I also entered into a new relationship just 4 months before my diagnosis. This could not have come at a worse time! I felt angry and confused. My initial reaction was “I am too young to die!” … followed by an overwhelming feeling that I was living someone else’s life because mine had suddenly become a nightmare filled with hospital appointments and little else.
A bit of medical history- I had a hysterectomy five years ago (aged 38) and was put on HRT as a result. A symptom of HRT is that you are more at risk of breast cancer but have a bigger risk of developing Osteoporosis without it. I should have had a mammogram every year but I wasn’t called for any and arranged for one myself in 2010 which was clear. HRT also makes your breasts fuller so as soon as I was diagnosed I was ordered to stop taking it. Within a week my breast had lost its swelling to reveal a large lump.
My biopsy results confirmed that I had Invasive Ductal Breast Cancer at Stage 2b which had spread into some of my lymph nodes. We were relieved to hear that it wasn’t the aggressive Inflammatory type but I still had a long road of treatment ahead of me. A Mastectomy, Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy, Breast reconstruction and 5 years of hormone treatment.
Thankfully I had met a wonderful man called Adrian in February and we had been inseparable since we met. I had many a tearful moment with him as I said ” you didn’t ask for this, I’ll be bald and minus a breast very soon”. His reply was “I’m not with you because of your hair and breasts, Its you I love and I’m not going anywhere”.
Adrian has been to every single appointment so far and has been my rock in trying to get some normality back on track. He had already moved in 3 weeks before my diagnosis with his son (aged 12). Our children have been brilliant, family and friends have all rallied round helping out and offering support. A few have also completed the Race for Life with my name on their backs.
I have since had a left breast Mastectomy and axillary lymph node dissection. My tumour turned out to be 6cm big and the cancer had spread into 9 out of 17 lymph nodes. I have been recovering for the past three weeks and am due to start chemotherapy on Wednesday. Yes I’m nervous, I am prepared to lose my hair and will shave it off before it falls out, donating it to Little Princesses Trust who provide real-hair wigs to boys and girls across the UK and Ireland that have sadly lost their own hair through cancer treatment.
So you can see how my life has changed in a month and explains why I have been absent from my usual Beautilicious40 updates. I will be able to work in between treatments on my good days and I have set up a facebook page diary of my Cancer Journey that you can follow if you wish – Janet’s Breast Cancer Journey 2013/2014
I would like to thank all the medical staff that have helped me so far. My surgeon, oncologist, Breast cancer Care team, Macmillan volunteers. It is truly amazing the support that is available to you. I also want to shout out to my fellow ‘Pink Sisters’ . I have already met some incredible women who are also on the same journey as me at different stages. It helps to know you are not on your own.
Ladies please be self aware. If you notice ANY changes in your breasts do not delay! Changes don’t always present themselves as a lump! Don’t ignore pain! Pain was my first symptom. Also look out for nipple changes, redness, swelling, pigmentation, dimpling.
Insist on a mammogram, get a second opinion if you aren’t comfortable. This is your body.Your life