After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Aisling found it difficult to adjust to a new pace of life. Now, she feels she's made progress.
I found it hard to slow down after my diagnosis
I had a lumpectomy to remove my tumour and surrounding tissue and sentinel lymph node removal in April 2019.
The following week, I went back for my follow up appointment to be told I needed further surgery. Thankfully, I didn't need chemo - but I did need radiotherapy, and I will have to be on tamoxifen for 10 years.
I decided to continue to work in my job as a PE teacher up until my surgery date, as I felt physically fit enough to continue and I wanted to be there for my senior pupils who were preparing for their exams. Looking back, I was an emotional wreck, but being in work gave me something to focus on.
Asking for help felt strange
I found it difficult to sit still and rest when I had my operations as I’m usually such an active person. Then, a few weeks after my treatment, the fatigue hit me. It was the strangest thing I’ve ever experienced. Some days I was fine, then the next it was like being hit with a ton of bricks.
At first, it was difficult to adapt my mindset, as I have always been the person who just did everything myself instead of asking for help.
As a mum, you think it is sometimes easier to just do it yourself. I now realise it is important to allow people to help you, it is not a weakness to ask for help. It is hard for family and friends during treatment to know how to help, so let them do what they can.
My children were fab throughout as we were very honest with them. They were so caring, helping around the house. My daughter took on the role of my nurse (which was so cute) bringing me my medicine and pain relief when needed.
I’ve changed a lot
I have always been a very resilient person. Since my diagnosis, I have found things challenging at times - but I remind myself that what I've been through is huge, so I shouldn’t be too tough on myself.
People who know me well have said they haven’t seen a change in me, but internally I feel I have. I now think life’s too short to get stressed at the little things, and put myself first more often when I feel things are getting stressful or tiring. I focus more on what’s important to me and my family.
This change of attitude has also made me reassess what I want from life. Before my diagnosis, I was preparing myself to further my career but, on reflection, my priorities have now changed. I have decided to put this on hold for the moment so that I can focus on my family and my full recovery.
We have to focus on our own recoveries
One thing that helped me a lot in the transition back to work and my personal life was Breast Cancer Now’s Moving Forward course. I did one in November 2019 and it helped me so much.
Through this process, I've learnt we all are different and have different treatment plans with their own challenges.
It’s important not to compare ourselves to others and to focus on our own recovery.
If you or someone you know is going through breast cancer, the Christmas period can be an especially difficult time. We are here to help.
Our Moving Forward courses are temporarily being held online due to COVID-19, but you can register now if you would like to join us in January 2021.
You can also find information about our other services and support available to you on our webpages.