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When Jenny was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of 2019, her treatment went by in a blur. After it was finished, she suddenly felt lost.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2019 at the age of 42. I had found something in my left breast in bed one evening while chatting with my husband. I asked him whether he thought it felt like a lump and he said it did.
Initially, I was convinced it was nothing, but my mum died from breast cancer at the age of 40 so I went straight to the GP the next morning. The doctor said she’d send me through the rapid screening ‘just in case’, but that it was unlikely to be anything nasty.
At the screening appointment, I waited for the mammogram, then for the scan. The radiologist said she wanted to check something with her colleague, and I knew then that something was wrong. They said I needed a biopsy. I wished I’d let my husband come with me to the appointment!
Another wait and I was met with a breast surgeon, a breast care nurse and the nurse I’d seen initially. They wouldn’t say it was cancer but they were clear it was ‘unusual’.
I didn’t tell anyone except work and one friend while I waited for the results. My husband came to the second appointment and we both cried when we were told it was triple negative breast cancer.
My work were amazing, and really supported me all the way through. My husband was lovely, but I think he found it harder than I did. I guess he didn’t really know how he could help.
I told other people the news slowly. I didn’t really want anyone to know for quite a while, but my sister was great and my friends were really supportive. I had a rota of people who took me to chemotherapy until Covid-19 stopped visitors. Luckily the pandemic didn’t affect my treatment at all, but it meant I had to go to all my appointments alone.
I was lucky in that I had very few side effects and managed to work from home pretty much all the way through, which I think kept me sane. My husband couldn’t go to work as he was front-facing NHS, so he got six months compassionate leave and baked bread while I worked at the dining table.
Because I was having chemotherapy I had to shield from Covid-19. This meant my eight-year-old stepdaughter had to stop coming to our house. My husband and I slept in separate rooms and stopped all physical contact so he could pick her up every day to take her somewhere outside for a walk or a bike ride. Not being able to have a hug through it all was really hard.
I didn’t give two hoots about the cancer at that point, but I was utterly terrified that I’d catch Covid-19.
The hardest part was the end of treatment.
After the blur of diagnosis, I was straight on a conveyor belt of appointments, tests, check-ups and treatments. It seemed like an incredibly long plan but it whizzed by.
After my last appointment, I rang the bell and they say, ‘See you in six months’. Then I was on my own.
Everyone at home was delighted I was ‘all better’ but the chemotherapy had broken me. I was utterly shattered, sore and terrified of the cancer coming back. Not having cancer was far harder than having cancer for me.
I joined some Facebook groups in an effort to help myself, a couple were brilliant. I found them hugely supportive, with lots of jokes and honesty. I mostly got through by being incredibly flippant about the whole thing.
I also signed up to a course with Cancer Support UK. It was really good and I’m still in touch with some of the ladies, which is lovely.
Now I’m looking forward to Christmas and having my sister and family stay with us.
The last couple of years have been tough, especially for those with breast cancer. If you and your loved ones want to come together this Christmas to help us support people like Jenny, why not join us at our Carols by Candlelight concert? Join in person or online for an evening of festive celebrations.