When Lesley was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, her first thought was for her children. During treatment, she tried her hardest to continue ‘as normal’ - even when she struggled to get out of bed.
I wasn’t worried at first
When I found a lump in my breast, I didn’t think for one minute that it would be cancer. My first thought was it was probably a cyst. I spoke to a few friends who said the same thing, telling me, ‘You’ll be fine.’
How wrong we were.
I was referred to the breast clinic after getting my lump checked out by my doctor. I still wasn’t too worried. However, after a mammogram and an ultrasound, I knew from the look on the nurse’s face that there was something wrong. I then had to have a biopsy and by that point I knew that the lump was more serious than a cyst.
I was so scared for my boys
My partner, Iain, and I were then taken into a room. A consultant told me, ‘I’m sorry, you have breast cancer.’
Our world fell apart. It didn’t seem real, I felt like they were talking about somebody else. I felt completely numb. I was scared for my boys and my future.
I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, stage 2 breast cancer, as it had also spread to my lymph nodes. I was absolutely terrified.
All this happened during October: Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I had actually been following broadcaster Rachael Bland’s story at the time and was a huge fan of her ‘You Me & The Big C’ podcasts. Little did I know, I was about to be thrown the same life-changing diagnosis.
I tried to keep things normal during treatment
My initial thoughts were for my two young sons. How was I going to tell them the news? My youngest was only seven years old. Surprisingly, they both coped so incredibly well and only on the days when I was quite ill did I see them tearful and worried.
I had a lumpectomy, six rounds of chemotherapy, and four weeks of radiotherapy. I was also asked to take part in two clinical trials which I was quite happy to do, as these trials are so important for future treatments and research.
During this time, I tried to keep things as normal as possible. I carried on doing the school run and also kept as active as I could. There were some days where I wasn’t able to get out of bed, too, but on days I felt well, I walked my dog and met up with friends for lunch.
It was important for me to keep some sense of normality – not just for me, but for my boys, my family and my friends. There were some very dark days during chemo, but I got through it and knew I wouldn’t feel that bad forever. Staying positive kept me going.
Cancer had a huge impact on me
My life was so busy before my diagnosis. I worked full time, I had a busy social life and I was on the PTA at school. Now, I live life at a slow, steady pace - very little stresses me out anymore.
I still haven’t returned to work yet, and I don’t know when I will, as I continue to have side effects from chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I’m also currently having hormone therapy in the form of tamoxifen and goserelin.
I’ve learned that the best way to get through treatment is to get up/dress up when you can. You just have to face things head on – rest up when you feel you need to, but get out there when you can on the good days. Just arranging lunch or coffee dates with friends and keeping active really helps with mental and physical wellbeing.
If you are still searching for your 'new normal' following a breast cancer diagnosis, our 'life after breast cancer' information and resources may help you.