Jo was diagnosed with breast cancer after finding a lump by chance. She tells us about her treatment, the help she received from Breast Cancer Now, and how she now hopes to help others. 

Jo, a young white woman with long brown hair, wears a hospital gown and face mask

I always thought I’d be too scared to make an appointment if I found a lump 

There is a family history of breast cancer on my mum’s side. My aunt had it at 38 and unfortunately died, and my mum had it almost 10 years ago when she was 62. Thankfully, she was treated successfully and declared No Evidence of Disease. 

Because of this, I was always aware of the risk and was supposed to start yearly mammograms at 40. Despite this, I stupidly never checked myself. 

One night when I was 38, however, I was lying in bed and had an itch on my left side. As I went to scratch it, I felt a lump on my boob. This was on a Friday evening, but when Monday came I made an appointment. 

I always thought I’d be too scared to do it, but something told me I needed to get checked straight away. 

When I saw the nurse, she assured me it felt like a cyst, but due to my family history she referred me. The following Monday, I went to the hospital for a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy. After, I was called back into the room and told that, while my mammogram was clear, the ultrasound had shown ‘something’. I needed an MRI to check further. 

I crumbled. I knew it wasn’t going to be good news, but I would have to wait to find out exactly what I’d be facing.  

The best advice I got was to not think about the ‘what if’s 

The following Monday, I was told I had stage 1 grade 1 breast cancer. 

My consultant was brilliant, reassuring, and gave me all the information I would need. There was so much to take in and a lot of ‘what if’s, but she told me to focus on what we already knew at the time – which was honestly the best advice she could have given me. 

I still needed the MRI, which I had later that week. Unfortunately, that picked up a second, smaller and much deeper lump, so I needed to have another biopsy and wait on the results. After all that, it turned out to be the same cancer. 

My treatment plan was relatively straightforward: remove the lumps and then, providing nothing else showed up and my nodes were clear, I’d just need radiotherapy and tamoxifen. I was grateful not to need chemotherapy, as the thought of that had been one of the worst things. 

I was also genetically tested and came back negative. 

I struggled a bit once my treatment had ended 

Overall, I think I took my diagnosis quite well. I was lucky in the sense that it had been caught early, and I knew my mum had got through it so I felt I could too.   

I had a few choices with regards to the type of operation – a mastectomy or a lumpectomy – and then different options for reconstruction. It may sound daft, but I was more worried about what I would look like after the operation than the cancer itself – but that may have just been my way of coping with it. 

In the end, I had a li-cap procedure where they use fat from your back to reconstruct the breast. However, it’s now been over a year after my operation and I still find I have daily discomfort and numbness, and I often wonder if I made the right choice.  

I definitely struggled more after treatment than during it. I think I’d been on autopilot for those couple of months, and then it all hit me. 

I want to give back to a charity that supported me in my time of need 

Supporting Breast Cancer Now means everything to me.  

If I’ve been unsure about something during this time, the website has been a huge help. The information on there is invaluable. When I had a question about tamoxifen, the Forum in particular was excellent. 

I honestly believe it is because of research and the work that Breast Cancer Now do that I am still here to tell my story. Because of this, I’m keen to raise awareness and do more for those who unfortunately aren’t as lucky as I was, especially those who are diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. It breaks my heart to see so many young women go through this. 

I’ll be taking part in a Pink Ribbon Walk to give something back to a charity that helped me immensely in my time of need. Plus, I love walking and hiking in beautiful places, so I’m sure I’ll enjoy it. 

I am very active on social media, and I hope that documenting my journey and fundraising will help raise awareness as well as much-needed funds. 

 

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