When Aurelie was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 40, only a few of her friends stuck around for support. Thankfully, she found someone to talk to.
I thought my life was perfect
I have always been a dreamer. I’d pictured my perfect life since I was a teenager, and - even though I achieved some of those life goals - I realised 18 months ago that my life was not that perfect.
In May 2019, I felt a lump in my right breast. I was convinced that it was nothing, but I still ended up making an appointment with the GP. She reassured me and told me that she was 99% sure it wasn’t anything to worry about.
However, thanks to my brother who is an oncologist, I insisted on a referral and did all the required tests to confirm this.
I sensed something was wrong
Apparently, breast cancer can be very hard to detect at a younger age. That was one piece of good news, I thought: in the cancer world, 40 years old is actually young!
The mammogram was fine, but the ultrasound wasn’t, so I needed a biopsy. Then, two days later, while I was off work and chilling with a friend, my phone rang. I think that I will remember that moment for all my life.
I was told I had to go to see the breast specialist as soon as possible. I knew deep inside that it wasn’t a good sign, but I was still trying to convince myself that it would all be ok.
I was so scared at first
When I heard the word ‘cancer’, my world turned upside down.
My first reaction was to cry and to tell my surgeon and the nurse that I was not ready to pass away, and then it all gets quite blurry.
I remember calling my brother, then my parents. I was not crying anymore. I was actually quite rational and explained the next steps in a quiet, almost cold way. I realise now that I may not have been very sensitive in the way I announced it to my family - I think that may have been my way of protecting myself.
The next three weeks were all about finding out the type of breast cancer I had and whether it had spread.
Treatment was tough
I thought my work was stressful, but it was nothing compared to the anxiety I felt waiting for those results. The verdict came back - I had triple negative breast cancer. So, the treatment would start with chemotherapy.
When my oncologist went through all the possible side effects of the treatment with me, I decided to focus on my only target: getting rid of this cancer. My oncologist also told me that, as a ‘young’ woman, I may not be able to have children anymore, so I had to rethink my dreams about my potential future family.
The chemotherapy was very tough, but efficient, so it was worth all the months of fighting chemo brain, of struggling to go for a walk, of feeling nauseous, lonely and anxious.
After six months of two different chemo treatments, I had a lumpectomy in December 2019, but there was still cancer left behind, so I opted for a complete mastectomy with reconstruction in January 2020.
This was followed by radiotherapy, which ended at the same time the COVID lockdown began.
Cancer showed me who my real friends were
Those months of treatments made me realise that, while I knew many people, I only had a few friends. It was a painful realisation, but now at least I know exactly who the most important people in my life are.
My family and few close friends played such a key role during those tough months. My family called me every day and came several times from France to be with me. My friends visited and brought me food if I was exhausted or went for walks with me on bad days.
I understand now that it may have been hard for them to go through this ‘journey’ as well.
The healthcare team were also so lovely with me. When I was going to my weekly chemo, I was focusing on the fact that I would see the team of nurses and that they would take care of me in such an amazing way.
They helped me cope with both the physical and emotional side effects – especially when I could not get my head around the fact that many people disappeared from my life as soon as I told them I had cancer! One of the nurses explained that some people get scared, some are selfish, and some can’t cope with diseases that remind them of their own anxiety.
Someone Like Me was an invaluable service
It was sometimes challenging for me to share my thoughts and questions, so I started searching for breast cancer associations online. It was then I discovered Someone Like Me.
The team were so nice, and they matched me so quickly with someone to talk to: a person who also had triple negative breast cancer a few years ago at about same age. It helped so much to talk with someone who understood what I was going through, who found the right words and could answer some of my questions.
I started to really focus on all the positive things. I was already lucky to have an amazing family, to have some great friends, to be able to get treatment, and to understand how precious and fragile life is.
I want to give back
And today - now that I am starting to feel better and more myself since my hair has started to grow back and I can exercise again - I want to also be able to help! I want to be able to support people who are in treatment, people who will also start this new chapter of their life.
The stronger you feel emotionally, the stronger you are to get through cancer. If there’s anything I can do to help people feel less lonely along the journey, I will do it.
If you would like to speak with someone who has been through a similar experience to you, getting in touch with our Someone Like Me service is easy.