PUBLISHED ON: 29 June 2020

After being diagnosed with primary breast cancer in November last year, 41-year-old mother-of-two, Kate, opted for chemotherapy. Then it was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Kate, her husband, and their two young children at the coast

I didn’t want chemotherapy at first

When I found the lump, I was putting some moisturiser on my face and smoothed it down my neck. As I got to my chest I found a hard lump on my right breast. The moment I found it, everything ran through my head. I was worried I might die, about how it would affect my kids.

I had a lumpectomy in December last year. When they did the operation, the surgeons found that the lump was bigger than they initially thought. I was told I might have to have chemotherapy, but it wasn’t a certainty. It was on the borderline of being necessary.

When I first found the lump, I thought, ‘I don’t want to have chemo’. So, at my next oncologist meeting, I went in with that attitude. However, after discussing options, my partner and I decided that, if it will increase my chances of the cancer not coming back, then it’s something worth doing. So I agreed to it.

Coronavirus changed everything

A couple of weeks later, COVID blew up.

I had got as far as going to the chemotherapy pre-appointment and trying on the cold cap, and I was meant to have my first dose on 19 March. By that point, however, I had got worried about having it because of COVID and how it might put me at risk. I had been talking to my oncologist and we decided that in my case it wasn’t a good idea.

Chemo was suddenly off the table, and instead the next step was radiotherapy - which was the original plan when I was first diagnosed. If I hadn’t had the question over chemo, then radio would have happened a lot sooner. It had been a while since the operation by that point. It was a worry I had wasted all that time not having treatment.

Everything happened so fast

Radiotherapy happened quickly in the end. I had it in April, and it was shortened to a five-day course instead of 15 days, which was the standard previously.

I went from gearing myself up for chemo to having it taken off the table, and then suddenly it was radio – and then that was over in just five days. Now I have got a prescription for tamoxifen which I will be taking for 10 years.

It was a weird end to it all. I had been prepared to have chemotherapy well into July, and then it was just gone. I’m feeling fine about it now, but it all changed at the last minute so it was an unnerving situation.

On balance, I think it has worked out well for me. It was negligible whether chemo would have helped me, and I’m grateful I didn’t have to go through it. I have reconciled not having chemo as it was only a small possible benefit.

The whole experience has made me realise that actually I am quite a stable person and whatever happens you just have to get on with things. The combination of cancer and COVID is a stressful mix but not having to contend with the risks from chemo has helped a lot. I felt myself relax as soon as I knew that I wouldn’t be having chemo after all.

With time, you get used to the fact you have breast cancer. I was lucky it wasn’t worse and I didn’t have to have a mastectomy or chemotherapy. Even so, it will still be hanging over me that it might come back.

 

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