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Lisa and her two sons outside on a sunny day

Having cancer was easy – having the treatment was the hard part

For Lisa, one of the hardest things about going through treatment alone during a pandemic was how it impacted her sons. She’s now determined to get back on her feet for their sake as well as her own.

I hated not knowing what the lump was

The day before I found my lump, I’d run a marathon with some of my mates. I could tell something wasn’t quite right even through my sports bra, but it wasn’t until the next day that I felt it properly. It was big and bumpy.

Later, when I was in the pub with my best friend, I lifted my top up in the bathroom and asked her, ‘What do you think of this?’

She’s a medical secretary and works on a cancer ward, so I knew she would be the person to ask. She told me to get it checked out, but reassured me that it was probably fine.

So, I went to the GP and got referred to the breast clinic within two weeks. After just feeling the lump, they told me it was 'worrying’. Then I had a scan and a biopsy, but they still wouldn’t let me go home. Instead, they took me in a room and implied that the lump was breast cancer.

They couldn’t say for certain because they needed to wait for the biopsy results, which frustrated me because I just wanted a clear answer. They kept saying that the radiographers were good at what they do, and they were concerned about what they’d seen, but I couldn’t get them to say directly whether or not I had cancer.

For 16 days, I had no idea what was going on. I didn’t know what stage it was, whether it was secondary. That was such a worrying time.

Eventually, it was confirmed. They told me it was stage 2, and was the most common type of breast cancer.

I don’t know if I cry because I’m hormonal or because of what’s happened

I had three surgeries. It was only supposed to be one, but they didn’t get enough of the lump during the first one, and I had a bleed after the second one. Then I experienced another blow: the cancer was actually stage 3 and I needed chemotherapy.

Up until that point, we thought I wouldn’t need it, so it was devastating news. Even after that, I would still need to have 18 sessions of radiotherapy and my ovaries removed. That would have been a lot more upsetting if I was 10 years younger, but I’d already had my children so it didn’t affect me in that way.

The consultant said to me, ‘Just dedicate a year of your life to getting through this,’ and I’ve done that now. It’s been more than a year.

Because I’ve had my ovaries removed, though, I hit the menopause. It’s been mostly alright, apart from being hot all the time. I also tend to cry quite a bit more – but I’ve no idea if that’s because I’m hormonal or because of what’s happened.

As part of my ongoing treatment, I’m on anastrozole for five years, and the lower oestrogen has affected my bone density so I need to have a bone infusion every six months.

I hate that my boys had to see me go through treatment

Now I’m out of the worst of it, I wanted something to get me running regularly again - so I took on the 100k challenge.

I made two of my mates do it with me, too, and they hate running. They've done so well, though. One of them has managed to get nearly £500 on her Facebook fundraiser and the other one is almost at £400. Mine is around the £2,000 mark I think.

A lot of people didn’t actually know I’d had cancer until I started the fundraiser. If I hadn’t lost my hair during treatment, I probably wouldn’t have told anyone. I only did because I couldn’t avoid it.

My 11-year-old nephew has also been joining in a bit. He initially started running because of Captain Tom – he challenged himself to run a marathon in a week. When I started doing the 100k, he messaged me saying he’d like to do part of the journey with me, so that really pulled on my heartstrings!

Though I am really close to my family and friends, they didn’t all really see me go through treatment because of COVID restrictions. My boys, on the other hand, saw it all because they were always at home, and my parents had to look on through a window! They had to watch their mum and daughter get destroyed by treatment.

In a way, I’m running for them. It’s my way of showing them that I’m OK again.

I just want to go back to normal now

In a way, actually having the cancer was the easy bit. I felt fine. I ran a marathon! It’s the treatment that gets you. And going through it all on my own during a pandemic – that was so difficult.

Right now, I feel the best that I have since this all started in September 2020. I want this 100k challenge to mark the end of what I’ve been through. I want to go back to normal: to being at work, to being a good mum.

I still have a lot of emotion about it all. Sometimes I just get so angry that it happened. I’m healthy, I’ve not taken any drugs, I only drink now and then. I just think: why me?

But I feel about 90% of how I was before. Hopefully this is the start of a new chapter.

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Whether you've personally been affected by breast cancer or want to support others, you can set up your own fundraiser on Facebook in just a few easy steps. However much you raise, you'll be helping us fund essential research and care.

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