When Emma was diagnosed with DCIS during the pandemic, she experienced difficulties with her treatment and finding support.  

A split image - first, showing Emma standing with her husband and two children, then by herself against a brick wall - her brown hair is cropped short and she is smiling

Regularly checking my breasts meant I found the lump 

Back in October 2019, a group that I attend had a person from Coppafeel come in to talk to us about the importance of checking our breasts regularly. I almost didn’t go to the meeting thinking that it didn’t apply to me, as I was young, healthy and had no family history of breast cancer.  

Thankfully, I did go along in the end, and I’ve since received a monthly text reminding me to check myself. 

It was during one of my checks that I found a pea-sized lump in my breast. I asked my husband to check it out as well and whether he had noticed it before. After a few days it hadn’t changed at all, so I called the doctors.   

I was eventually diagnosed with breast cancer on Friday 13 November 2020. I’m not normally a superstitious person, but I think any Friday 13 in 2020 was going to be pushing the edge of bad luck! 

Not being able to see friends and family was tough 

Unsurprisingly, everyone was shocked by my diagnosis.  

It was difficult telling people, as we couldn’t see anyone face-to-face due to COVID-19. Not long after, we had a full lockdown at Christmas - so there weren't the comforting hugs and teary exchanges that would usually be expected, and I think this made it harder to process the news.

The only person who could support me fully throughout the journey was my husband. 

My two boys, aged 11 and eight, also helped me through it all. I have had a few people say to me that they couldn’t do what I’ve done through all this, but you don’t get a choice. You have to keep going, you have to find a way to press on – and, for me, my boys were that reason. 

I also had my faith as a Christian to help me. Knowing that God is looking after me and that I can trust in Him took a lot of the stress away. 

I felt guilty that my cancer was as ‘bad’ as other people’s 

I was relatively lucky, in the scheme of cancer things, that I only needed a mastectomy. Originally it was going to be a lumpectomy with radiotherapy, but they found lots of DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in Situ) scattered throughout the breast during my mammogram.    

After getting the news, I went on the Breast Cancer Now website to learn more. The information was easy to read and understand. From there, I checked out the Forum, which I also found very helpful.  

After my surgery, however, I stopped using it, as I felt guilty that I didn’t need any more treatment and that my cancer wasn’t as ‘bad’ as other people’s.  

Reading through previous comments, I also found there were people saying that if you didn’t need further treatment then you hadn’t really had cancer, and I didn’t need that negativity in my life. 

In an effort to move on, I signed up for the Moving Forward programme, but struggled with it as it was all online. Finding time for it while trying to juggle family life, going back to work and fatigue meant that it fell through the cracks. 

After all the stress of last year, we’re looking forward to a family Christmas 

As well as not being able to go to in-person support groups, the pandemic affected me in other ways. I wasn’t allowed to have people in appointments with me, and my surgery date kept getting moved. 

I’m a support worker so I had been able to work and keep busy during previous lockdowns. However, with my surgery delayed twice and having to isolate for two weeks before each one, I ended up not working for two months before I actually started treatment. This had an impact both financially and mentally. 

This year, we are having a big family Christmas to make up for last year and to celebrate good health.  

As long as COVID-19 rules don’t change, my brother and his girlfriend will be coming over from France, my sister from Cambodia and my other brother and his family from London. We can’t remember the last time that all four of us were together for Christmas! 

 

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 Emma, why not join us at our Carols by Candlelight concert? Join in person or online for an evening of festive celebrations.

Carols by Candlelight