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I was diagnosed with cancer twice – but I’m not letting it stop me

Victoria was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in 2019, but she refuses to be held back by it. She shares how her diagnosis encouraged her to start running.

Victoria was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in 2019, but she refuses to be held back by it. She shares how her diagnosis encouraged her to start running.  

I never thought I’d get cancer twice 

In July 2019, I was referred for a mammogram. Then I was told I needed an ultrasound. Three hours after I initially arrived at the hospital, I was told I had breast cancer. 

I had already had stage four cancer of the parotid gland (head and neck) in 2015, which I managed to recover from, but my five years of follow-up appointments were rapidly coming to an end. Ironically, when my consultant said, ‘We’ll see you in a year,’ I panicked. 

I wasn’t ready to be left alone. I never imagined I’d get cancer twice. 

The following day, the consultant rang to say they would like to do a routine bone scan. Fast forward a few weeks and it was confirmed the cancer had spread to my ribs. I had secondary breast cancer

My immediate reaction was mainly shock. You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you have no idea what is going on? That’s how I felt. 

My partner was with me. We were both heartbroken by the news.  

I am still living despite my diagnosis 

At first, the shock was difficult to manage. I still didn’t understand how I could have cancer again. 

I decided that being positive was the best way to deal with it. I have amazing people supporting me and that really helps.  

Physically, I felt well. Early menopause was emotional, but it had to happen for the treatment to work. When I was first diagnosed, one of my head and neck consultants said, ‘When your treatment settles down you will almost forget about it and get on with your life as normal.’ That’s pretty much where I’m at now. 

Being told that my cancer can be controlled for ‘many years’ is good – none of us really know how long we’ve got, so let’s just get on with it.  

I still have moments that take my breath away, but those moments are rare. I have a great support team at the hospital and at home. My treatment plan means that I can pretty much carry on as normal.  

Exercise has helped me immensely 

During an appointment with my Macmillan Nurse Consultant, I asked, ‘Are there any restrictions on exercise?’. 

She said there weren’t, and actually encouraged me to do more. She then promptly produced a leaflet detailing the '5K Your Way' group, who meet the last Saturday of each moth and take part in Parkrun. 

The group is for people living with or dealing with cancer, plus their families and friends, and health professionals.  

Running! I thought, 'I can't run!' I was thinking gentle Pilates or similar. But I met with the 5K Your Way ambassador, and 55 minutes later I completed my first 5K run.  

We all then went for a coffee and a chat. It was lovely to talk to others in similar situations. I’d had a wonderful morning and felt energised by the run (it was more of a very fast walk!) 

I downloaded the Couch to 5K app, dusted off the treadmill, and a few weeks later I completed the 5K in 41 minutes.  

Everyone should give it a go 

It’s not been easy for me, but that’s because I’m a non-runner, not because I have cancer.  

The treadmill is ok to help get started, but you can't beat the great outdoors for fresh air. It definitely lifts your spirits. I feel energised and happy!  

To other people considering giving it a go, I would say do it. Look up your local Parkrun or 5K Your Way group and give it a go. You can go at whatever pace you want, meet new people and get fitter in the process. 

To others with a secondary diagnosis, I would say that it’s tough. There’s no denying that. 

But you can live life with cancer. I was told I have 'many years', and that's all any of us can hope for.  

The advancements in treatments are literally life-changing, and hopefully research will continue to find new ones.  

Talk to people and ask your support team questions if there's anything you're not sure of. Most importantly, stay positive. It really does help - though I know it’s not always that easy. 

 

If you would like more information on secondary breast cancer, we have plenty of resources.

Secondary breast cancer

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