A personal message you need to hear
You might remember that I started a ‘mummy’ blog a few years ago with my aunty Helen, called THE MUMMY CONFIDENTIALS. We wrote about our different experiences as mothers but due to my WWKD work load and life itself from both sides, we closed it down and now Helen keeps the Instagram going (HERE).
Helen and I have always been close, I consider her my true life mentor and biggest support in all aspects of my life. Late last year, through sheer luck, she discovered a lump on her breast. We don’t have any breast cancer in our family, so surely it was not anything serious? Just a fibre-something or other like I found six years ago (my story HERE)? These are the things we spoke about on the phone the moment she found it. I will leave her to tell her story…
“I found a lump! On my boob! Just like that! I wasn’t even looking. It was just there- towards the bottom of my left boob. I felt it with an accidental light brush past while showering. I could see it too! And when I did I froze. I touched it ever so lightly hoping it wasn’t…. hoping it was just… hoping I’d imagined it all. I breathed in. I exhaled deep out while a million thoughts went through my head. Oh shit. I don’t need this I thought. That day was the last day I looked at my boobies. I haven’t looked at them since….
I went about my day as usual but still had a million thoughts bouncing around my head. I called in to see my GP later that afternoon.
My GP said there’s no cause for concern. She checked for any other lumps and didn’t find any. Perhaps I should go and get proper screening done anyway.
As it turned out, the lump I found had disappeared by the time I went for a mammogram and an ultrasound a few days later. I was relieved yet scared as hell for the screening process.
It was my first mammogram. The compression on my dense boobs was harsh. I cried because it hurt so much but also I felt so alone and scared. I WAS alone and I WAS scared. I had an ultrasound too. Strangely the screening didn’t detect the lump I had originally found. It was nothing. It was gone. Why did they take so long and rescan, recheck, redo! Apparently it was because it was my first ever screening. I hated every single second of the breast screening process. I thought that was the worst day of my life… the worst was yet to come…
A few days later my GP discussed the results. The X-rays had detected three lumps, two on my right boob and one on my left, none of them being the one I found originally. What could they be? Fibrofatty pieces of tissue? Fibroadenoma? Something worse? My GP suggested I do a biopsy to be absolutely certain what the lumps are. The second option was to come back after 12 months and check up on the lumps. I umm’d and ahh’d..I remembered what my niece, Jess said to do…if it came to this always go the biopsy option. And so I did.
The biopsy was an ordeal as I had expected. You see I dread needles and blood and anything body/medical/invasive. I thought that was the worst day of my life. The worst was yet to come.
The specialist didn’t call me in any earlier so I went to see her at the time of my pre-set appointment… I thought that was a good sign. Surely if there was something wrong, I’d be asked to come in earlier. She went on to explain that the left lump was no concern. One of the lumps on the right contain something called LCIS which is a future risk to having cancer. It’s best if this lump was removed entirely. I was relieved and sent a text to my family and friends informing them that even though I was to have a lumpectomy, I did not have cancer. My day procedure was in a few days.
The day of the operation happened so fast. I needed a hook wire to guide the surgeon…… that was awful. I was so anxious waiting for my turn in theatre. When I woke from the operation I had a nauseous reaction to the anesthetic… I thought this was the worst day of my life…. the worst was yet to come.
Again, the specialist didn’t call me in any earlier so I went to see her at the time of my pre-set appointment… once again I thought that was a good sign. Surely if there was something wrong, I’d be asked to come in earlier. At my appointment the specialist said the following words of which turned out to be the worst day of my life….. “we are lucky we removed the lump as it contained cancer”. And “we will undertake a second operation…” I don’t know what else she said… the room was spinning. I stood up while she continued to talk. I didn’t hear a word she said. My husband sat there listening to her but I opened the door and went out to the reception area. I retuned. Sat down. Got back up. Sat down. My specialist continued talking to me (or at me) … finally I spoke, “I have to get out of here!”
My husband was my rock. He explained it all to me in the car. My second operation was to be in 4 week’s time. No rush because a) they needed to reopen the wound, b) it was non aggressive c) I don’t know really what else. The second op would be to clear the margins and remove and test some lymph nodes. For one month I lived with this awful information. What was in my body? How did this happen? Why me? I can’t believe this!
Every day I went about my business as mumma, wifey, employee, friend. And every day when I was alone I cried. I cried a lot. I cried in the toilet at work. I cried at school after drop off. I cried in the aisles at the supermarket. I cried in the car. And I prayed. All. The. Time. And when I was mumma, wifey, employee, friend again I wanted to be the best of these that I could be. Only once did I ever think this is it- the end. Most of the time I thought this is my second chance at life! I will be better. I will be stronger. I will be a survivor. The tears were tears of hard hope. Please. Please. Please! Please. Please Please! I prayed with conviction as my dad told me to pray like I believed it. I mediated and did yoga sessions and every night I slept deeply from mental exhaustion. I got through that month.
After the second operation the results showed cancer in one of the lymph nodes! Fuck. But something happened that day. I found faith. I had faith they the surgeon had removed all the cancer and I was now cancer free. Only an MRI could confirm this but deep down inside I knew my prayers were answered. I had no more tears anyway. They couldn’t even come out if I tried. I had faith that I’d be ok.
On the day I was to find out he results of the MRI my husband had a little blackout caused by stress. Even though I was stressed too I was also positive that I would be ok. Then my doctor said this- “the MRI shows you’re all clear”. I fell to the ground. I said thank you, thank you, thank you- to her and to God. And all the way home while my husband drove I cried as many tears as I cried in that dreadful first month. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Tears of relief!
At the end of January, I will commence a six week course of radiation therapy. After that I will take a tablet known as tamoxifen, an estrogen blocker for five years. I’ll deal with things one day at a time but every day I am grateful for the hope life brings and the faith I have found and most importantly the chance I have to reset my life for the better.”
I asked Helen to share this story here on WWKD to reach a wider audience. If anything good could come out of this dark time, it is that Helen’s journey would remind you of the importance for breast checking, no matter WHAT YOUR AGE! Helen is 42, I am 34 this year and have started an annual check at a breast clinic as a way for me to be in control of my body the best way possible. Please, pledge to check! xxx