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Nicky sat facing the camera

The day I was diagnosed with breast cancer

Nicky, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, couldn’t believe the diagnosis when it happened. She found our support services kept her informed and stopped her feeling isolated.

When I was diagnosed my initial reaction was disbelief. It really did take a while to sink in. Every time I heard myself say it out loud it sounded like I was talking about someone else.

Not only had my father lost his mum to breast cancer, but my husband had recently lost his mother to pancreatic cancer, so it was a very difficult time for my family as well.

I had found a lump one evening while lying in bed. I’d always been aware of breast cancer because my grandmother had died of the disease when I was a child, so I knew what to look out for. But I never dreamed it would affect me in my early forties.

Telling my two boys, aged seven and two, was particularly hard. I used a copy of the children’s book Mummy’s Lump which was given to me by the nurse when I was diagnosed. It really helped to explain everything to them in language and pictures they could understand.

I think it’s so easy to just assume a lump is something to do with pregnancy, breastfeeding or hormonal changes. I could so easily have left it and not gone to the doctor to get it checked out. Even the GP said she was 99% sure it was a cyst but referred me anyway and I’m eternally grateful that she did. Now I am so passionate about raising awareness among younger women who are below the national screening age.

Cancer changes everything

Once you’ve been diagnosed, your world is turned upside down. You live from appointment to appointment and you can’t plan anything, which was a tough lesson for a control freak!

Once I realised how long the treatment would take, I just thought ‘I don’t have time for this. I’ve got two small children, a busy job, and there’s no way I can take the best part of a year off to have surgery, chemo and radiotherapy.’ I hadn’t even potty trained my two year old and he was about to start nursery. But of course the reality was that I didn’t have a choice.

I threw myself into research, keeping myself informed and taking advantage of any complementary therapies that were on offer at my hospital such as massage and reflexology

Getting support when I needed it

Breast Cancer Care helped so much. I used many of the support services that they offer. I rang the Support Line on the day I was diagnosed, and used the Someone Like Me service that pairs you with a volunteer who’s had a similar experience.

I also attended a two day Younger Women’s event in London a few days after I finished chemo, which was great.

Through the Forum I made some wonderful friends who provided much needed support during my treatment and who I am still close to now.

You can feel so isolated and alone during this time, so being able to connect with other people who just ‘get it’ helps to normalise everything you are going through.

Once I was with two friends in a bookshop in Richmond having a coffee with our toddlers in their buggies. Anyone looking at us would have thought we were three ordinary mums, but we were all bald under our wigs and comparing chemo side effects, rather than our toddlers’ nap times!

If I were to give advice to someone who has just been diagnosed, I would say reach out and use Breast Cancer Care’s support services. Whatever your age, your location, or your diagnosis, there’s a service to help support you. Just pick up the phone… that’s what they’re there for.

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