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Adobea first went to her GP with a lump in 2016, but wasn’t diagnosed with breast cancer until it has already spread. She tells us how cancer has changed her as a person, and how she’s determined to stay positive.
In September 2016, I found a lump in my breast about the size of a grape. I want to my GP and expressed concern but, after being examined by a nurse, was told it was just an ordinary breast lump and that I should only come back if it became painful or discoloured.
Towards the end of 2017, I noticed the lump was getting larger, was warm to the touch, and that my breast was becoming discoloured and dimpled. I thought I might have some kind of muscle strain from swimming, but I still went to the GP. Again, I was told not to worry.
For ages, I was living with this thing and - because they had said it was ok - I was just carrying on with my life. But there was always something at the back of my mind. I kept looking at it in the mirror and in the shower and could feel it getting bigger and bigger.
In April 2018, I started experiencing a strange pain in my back. It got worse over the day and wouldn’t get better with painkillers. It got to the point where I couldn’t breathe properly; I was worried I was having a heart attack.
I went to hospital where I had an x-ray and ECG, and the doctor told me I probably had a hernia or muscular-skeletal pain and gave me some painkillers. Two days later, I was still in agony, so I called an ambulance.
Once I reached the hospital, I insisted on having a scan. That’s when they saw the mass on my breast and in my lymph nodes. After more scans and tests, they told me it was cancer, and that it had already spread.
I called a helpline to help me work out what my diagnosis meant. I wanted to know if I would die. The nurse I spoke to helped me to understand that it was treatable, but not curable. She explained that many people can live a long time with secondary breast cancer, and that there are a lot of options available.
Due to where the cancer had gone and how it was spreading, they wanted to get me on treatment as quickly as possible. I didn’t have the option to have any kind of fertility treatment, which was tough, as that year I’d decided I wanted another baby.
I was meant to have six rounds of chemotherapy, but ended up only having four. It made me so unwell, I didn’t feel like I could survive it. At times it was as if I’d swallowed hot coal, like I was burning from the inside out.
I’d feel that way for about two-and-a-half weeks, then have a few days where I felt normal, and then have to start the next cycle.
I told my oncologist I couldn’t do any more and, based on my scans, she said she felt that it had targeted as much of the cancer as it could anyway. So, I was able to go onto hormone therapy.
The medication is doing its job but I have intense menopausal side effects: hot flushes, tiredness, bone pain. My mum and I have got the same ailments now – we’re always complaining about our knees!
Breast cancer made feel disappointed in my body. I became insecure all of a sudden. My identity was askew for a while, and I had to re-figure out who I was. I had to embrace this new body that I have now, and I’m still working on it.
In a way, it made me feel less secure about my womanhood, too. I had to figure out a way of styling this new body I have, and I’m slowly learning how to flatter my new shape.
I also felt less feminine knowing I couldn’t have any more children, that my son won’t have any brothers or sisters. I’ve had to come to terms with that. I’ve had to accept that my life is not the same as it used to be.
My son rarely saw me ill. I had to explain my hair loss, but I had very short hair at the time anyway, so it wasn’t as much as a shock. He just knew that mum was poorly and she had to take a strong medication to make her feel better.
We didn’t explicitly talk about cancer, he just knew I wasn’t feeling well. He knows I still live with this illness and that I take medication for it, but that’s it. I try not to think about it, too. I know I have something that will shorten my lifespan, but I keep pushing through and hope things stay under control as they are.
I’m confident in my medication and in the research that is still being done to help people with secondary breast cancer. With this positive mindset and energy, I feel that things aren’t all doom and gloom!
Where I can, I try to speak to people that are going through the same thing as myself. I want to do more and find my place where I can actively help other people, as I find this can be really helpful.
I don’t like to dwell on it, but I do wonder what would’ve happened if my initial concern in 2016 been picked up on. I could have been a primary case, and my life would different now.
I feel that, because of my age, they wrote off that it could have been anything to do with cancer - but if you have symptoms, it needs to be investigated.
Now, I’d say to other people: if you feel anything unusual, make sure you go to your doctor and insist that they check it. Don’t be afraid of what they may or may not say. It’s better to know than not - prevention is better than cure.
Cancer is a very scary word still. People think that cancer is synonymous with death, so they don’t want to talk about it, but even having a simple conversation about checking your breasts can be so important.
Adobea shared her story with us as part of our Fashion Targets Breast Cancer Campaign. This year, we've teamed up with River Island and Dorothy Perkins to create the 'Fashion. Your Story' collection. By purchasing from the collection, you'll be supporting people like Adobea, and helping fund vital research and care through Breast Cancer Now.