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Kate had a three-year-old boy and another little one on the way when she found out she had breast cancer. Here’s how our Someone Like Me service helped her through.
Nothing prepares you for a cancer diagnosis. In the week between my biopsy and the results, all sorts of emotions ran through my head.
My husband was with me when I got the news. He was very calm. While I was panicking about the what ifs and worst-case scenarios, he was listening to the medical advice we were given and always kept me looking at the practical side when I needed it.
I remember immediately thinking about my children. I was pregnant at time of diagnosis and also had a three-year-old. I knew that I had to be OK because I wanted to be with them, I wanted to see all their milestones. I remember saying, ‘I need to be OK because I want to walk them to school.’
Something that may seem quite trivial to other people suddenly felt enormous.
I wanted to do whatever I could to keep me with my children. After a lot of thought, I decided to have a mastectomy.
When you tell people, they always say, ‘but you are so young’ or ‘but your children are so little’. I know people can’t help their reactions, but I remember being angry because that’s all I thought about, too. Not necessarily that it shouldn’t be happening to me, but that it wasn’t fair on my children.
I had a mastectomy about eight weeks after my diagnosis (due to needing to wait until being 12 weeks pregnant), and I was lucky enough to not need any further treatment after my mastectomy other than taking tamoxifen for ten years.
The operation itself was simple but the recovery was hard.
Needing time to get my strength back and having to get my little boy looked after by others was tough because I wanted to spend every second with him. I wanted to be the one playing with him and reading his bedtime stories, but it wasn’t possible to begin with as I was so sore.
We decided not to tell him about my diagnosis as we didn’t think he would understand. He was a happy little boy and we didn’t want to burst his bubble, although he knew that I was ‘poorly’.
Looking back on it now, it was only a short time and children are resilient. He was happy and looked after, and that is all that matters.
I didn’t have family or friends who had been through breast cancer and, although everyone offered support, it was hard not to feel alone. So I phoned Someone Like Me.
They put me in touch with a volunteer who had also been pregnant and had young children at the time of her diagnosis. She helped with questions around the mastectomy and my physical recovery, but I also needed help emotionally. I needed to be reassured that my children would be OK.
I felt silly saying things like, ‘I just want to see them go to school,’ but my volunteer made me feel like I could ask anything. This was what I needed.
I continued this support for a few months. The help it gave me was invaluable.
Three years after my diagnosis, I decided to become a Someone Like Me volunteer because I wanted to be that person for someone else.
I wanted to be the person who listens, who understands, and who will try to answer any question however big or small.
Being diagnosed and having children so young is terrifying and you would give anything to stop it from happening so you can be around for them. I want to share my experiences and reassure others who are pregnant or have young children.
People who have been diagnosed with cancer will know that it changes your outlook on life. You develop a new normal. The fear of recurrence is there – it never goes away – but you learn to live with it.
I have been lucky enough to be able to change my work–life balance and spend more time with my children. We do a lot as a family and are always going out for the day, making memories. I love seeing my children doing things that make them happy. You can’t take anything for granted.
I recently walked my youngest to school for the first time: a huge milestone for us both.
People going through breast cancer need to accept help.
As a mum you are used to juggling work, kids, housework and a busy life, so I found it difficult to say yes to people. But sometimes you really need a hand.
Also, don’t keep all your thoughts and feelings to yourself. If you can’t share them with your family, pick up the phone and speak to the Someone Like Me service. Speaking to someone who's like me is the best thing I ever did.
I will never forget the support I was given.
If you would like to talk to someone who understands what you're going through, check out our Someone Like Me service.