2015 was a year of celebrating friends’ weddings, a move to the coast and the year I was diagnosed with breast cancer, aged 27.
As you might imagine, the cancer thing kind of took over. It started in a sleepy daze, rolling over to hit the snooze button. As I rolled, I brushed past my left boob and felt something that didn’t feel much like boob. On closer inspection, it felt like a brazil nut under the skin.
My boyfriend, Dan, suggested it was probably a cyst and nothing to worry about. Of course it was nothing to worry about – I’m 27, fit and healthy and I have no family history of breast cancer. Even considering it was breast cancer was silly. That said, I was taking myself to the docs, just in case. Just in case.
The doctor didn’t think it was anything to worry about – most likely a cyst – but after chatting to a colleague she referred me to the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton, just in case.
Between appointments Dan secured a promotion that would take us to live in Bournemouth, the ticket out of London we’d been waiting for. Cue celebrations, frantic house hunting and arrangements to move our lives to Southbourne. We were so happy.
A couple of weeks later, I made my way to The Royal Marsden, a specialist cancer hospital down the road from Carshalton, where we would call home for just a little longer.
The breast nurse at the Marsden thought the lump felt very much like a cyst but, after a slight misunderstanding, she decided to send me for a scan, just in case. Following the scan and subsequent biopsy I returned to the nurse who said they now weren’t so sure it was a cyst and the biopsy would be tested. I should come back next Monday and bring someone with me. I should also call someone now. I didn’t call someone. I didn’t have cancer.
The next week took its sweet time despite us having lots to do, packing up our little flat. That said, aside from the odd moment of madness, I didn’t give too much thought to my next visit to the Marsden – there really wasn’t anything to worry about.
After a beautiful weekend celebrating a friend’s wedding in Brighton, I returned to The Marsden, this time with Dan by my side. I was expecting to go straight in to see the nurse but I was called for a mammogram instead. This was good news; it was obviously nothing to worry about – the mammogram was just to be absolutely sure. Great.
After a long wait we were called. It wasn’t the nurse I was expecting. We were taken to a surgeon.
“There is a problem”. It’s cancer.
I’m ok. Dan’s ok. We listen to his explanation of what’s going to happen.
“And we need to think about your fertility.”
I’m not ok. I’m very not ok. I didn’t hear much else.
The following days were a whiz of fertility and pre-op appointments and genetic testing before we franticly packed the last of our belongings into our Ford Focus, dropped the keys off at the letting agent and headed to the coast. This wasn’t how we imagined our journey South would start.
On the 11th August I had an op to remove the offending lump and lymph nodes. It was stage 3 breast cancer – the lump measured 21mm and the cancer had spread to six of the 10 nodes taken. The good news was I was BRCA negative.
In the weeks that followed, Dan and I underwent fertility treatment to freeze embryos ahead of starting chemo.
After meeting my oncologist, having all sorts of weird and wonderful scans and a PICC line fitted, I had my first zoladex implant to ‘switch off my ovaries’.
I was now ready to start chemo. On the 2nd October I had my first doses of herceptin, docetaxel and carboplatin.
Now, at the start of 2016, I have just one chemo session left. I thought the end would never come but it’s finally in sight. It’s been a long journey; there’s been many appointments, several hospital stays, some serious soul searching and I’m now modeling the egg head look but I’m nearly there.
Next up it’s four weeks of radiotherapy and herceptin for the next 12 months. The zoladex to suppress my ovaries will continue long term and I’ll be starting a 10 year stint of a bone-strengthening cancer treatment as well as hormone therapy. This isn’t where I expected to be aged 28 but here I am and boy am I happy to be.