Cancer at 25….
I always had a pretty laid back approach to how I lived my life. I was quite the avid partygoer; the experimenter; smoker and a big fan of the drink. I ate what I wanted and kind of did what I wanted, with minimal exercise. Which is a far cry from my former 16 year old self; healthy, first team hockey player and a school prefect.
Fast forward through university, the horrendous hangovers, and the experimentation of new substances. Not to mention the copious amount of tragic tinder dates that resulted in nothing but disappointment. However, university I survived and passed with a strong 2:1 in psychology. Bagged myself a job as a banker straight away, making life long friends before later leaving to join the family business. Between the years of being a banker and then working for the family business, I was always out, drinking, still smoking and doing things that I shouldn’t – with the eating and lack of exercise only worsening but still averaging a solid size 12; just a wobbly one but I always maintained my self confidence. Following endless more disastrous tinder dates and no success in love, I finally found myself a keeper in May 2018. Working for my dad was going great, I had my own house and of course a cat, my main man frank! I loved going out with my girls on the weekend, and spending time with my boyfriend, with no care in the world.
I have always been one to check my breasts regularly, mainly because they are big double D’s so you simply can’t resist touching them. There isn’t really any family history of breast cancer in my family, however I always felt that it was important to know your breasts on a month-to-month basis. So that you get to know what is normal for you. What some women don’t appreciate perhaps is just how firm you have to be sometimes, with larger breasts in particular.
One night at the start of December 2018 I found what I thought was a lump, but wasn’t sure. I got my boyfriend a couple days later to feel, which confirmed my fears – that this wasn’t normal and wasn’t there before. 2 days later I was at the doctors, which resulted in me booking privately for an ultrasound a week later, so i didn’t have to wait over 2 weeks for an appointment to come through via the NHS. It was on that scan right then and there that I knew it was serious. He scanned the lump, and then told me my lymph node in my armpit area was enlarged too, which I couldn’t feel. By this time, the lump and lymph node area was becoming tender to touch. (Whoever says, if it hurts, its not cancer. Was a liar!) Immediately I was fast tracked back on to the NHS system by the next day, getting 6 biopsies. 3 from the lump and 3 from the lymph node. This honestly wasn’t bad; it didn’t hurt, just left me with a couple of nice bruises and a small scar from the biopsy needle, which have almost disappeared now. I was advised results could take a week, but with Christmas fast approaching I was given the choice to either wait or find out the following week. I didn’t want to wait till after Christmas I wanted to know now. So on the 20th of December I was given the news that no 25 year old would expect to hear – you have breast cancer. Merry Fucking Christmas!
I was weirdly fine during the meeting with the consultant, who will also be my surgeon. I think that’s because I had already accepted that I had it and almost felt relieved for knowing – so I could now tackle it head on and beat this. I have triple negative breast cancer, testing negative for the Brca gene. My cancer is one of the more aggressive ones; in the sense it is more likely to come back than other breast cancers. Triple negative breast cancer is a type of breast cancer that does not have receptors for the hormones oestrogen and progesterone or the protein HER2, as well as it being a more rare type of breast cancer to be diagnosed with, it’s also very fast growing compared to hormone based ones; which makes it so aggressive. Scientists are still working on research to understand this complex type of breast cancer, which is why I ended up on a clinical trial for the first 12 weeks of chemotherapy.
I try not to let my particular diagnosis phase me, one day at a time, as there are those with success stories as well as those with sad stories. I chose to believe that I would be a success story.
The key for me at 25 and dealing with this, which has carried me through chemo is positive thinking – as cliché as that sounds. Cancer doesn’t have me and isn’t taking over me; I just have it for a temporary amount of time. I laugh and joke as much as I did before; I make the most horrendously inappropriate jokes. I go out for dinner with my boyfriend and family still and enjoy nights in with my girls. I am also now forced to live a healthy life again, no drinking, smoking and eating cleaner – hell I even went on jogs during chemo where I felt fit enough to do so. I also went to work nearly every day for at least 4 hours – although it’s a little easier when your father is the boss but the routine helped me keep that sense of normality. Now not everyone has the same experience through chemo, I know I am lucky. Upset stomachs, and tiredness with the occasional nosebleed was as bad as it got not to mention the piles – ouch! I am rocking a Phil Mitchell inspired hair do, but again that was something I took control of before it controlled me. As soon as my hair started malting, the shaver was out. I rock the turban and own many a fabulous wig. I wear my makeup bolder and brighter, with big earrings. I own the look, and accept this is my look for the time being. You just have to embrace it.
Now ladies (and gentlemen), I have to be honest. Yes I am positive at large, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had my bad and dark days. Days I have cried, or been uncomfortable and in pain at times. I look at my once favourite assets, and feel like they have let me down – and couldn’t even bring myself to look at my breasts for a while, which knocked a part of my confidence away. Before starting chemo, I chose to freeze my eggs, so the gruelling process of injecting my stomach over 2 weeks and receiving internal scans before being put to sleep for a small procedure was a lot to deal with for any one but especially someone in their 20’s. Not to mention my hormones were all over the shop during that time. (If you have the chance to freeze your eggs if ever in this situation, for me it was a no brainer. I know I have that back up in case I suffer from infertility following treatment, which is a high possibility. )
Once my first chemo session was under way, I found I didn’t cry as much, and I can now look at my breasts again and i am learning to love them all over again.
The only thing breast cancer has taken away from me slightly, is that I am no longer carefree. I now think about what I put in my body, and I think about my future and how long that will be. I know that it will get easier as time passes. All cancer patients fear it coming back. However it is simply out of our control, you just need to enjoy each day and not let your thoughts run wild.
The next step for me as I approach my last chemo session in a few weeks is surgery. For me this will be a lumpectomy with removal of some lymph nodes. I should be out of hospital the very next day, and then a month later I will receive 3 weeks of radiation. Which is every day except weekends, how kind of them to give me my weekends off! Hopefully then for me, I will officially be able to say, I am cancer free. Well here’s hoping.
Ladies (and gentlemen) know your breasts, know what is your norm. Never be afraid to go the doctors if you’re unsure about something. Checking your breasts takes a minute of your time. If not caught early, Breast cancer can take away your life. Be smart and check regularly.