PUBLISHED ON: 11 November 2021

When Claire first noticed some small changes to her breast, she wasn’t sure whether to get them checked. Now, she realises the decision may have saved her life.

Claire sits on her sofa wearing pink pyjamas with white polka dots and pink hearts

There was no definite lump

In 2019, I noticed changes in my breast that were very slight. There was puckering and pulling on the breast, and my nipple started inverting sometimes and looking flatter. There was also a slight lump, but I couldn’t feel it all the time.

I knew I should get checked out, but my changes were so slight I felt a bit silly and didn’t want to waste anyone’s time. I knew there was a possibility it could be cancer, but didn’t think it would be because there was no definite lump.

In August 2019, at age 42, I was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).

I didn’t understand why I needed a mastectomy

I kept being told it was ‘pre-invasive’ and that I was lucky I had caught things so early, yet I still needed a mastectomy.

I was absolutely devastated. I spent the four months in between my diagnosis and operation researching everything there was to know about the procedure and trying to find and talk to other women who had been through it.

I was terrified and felt like it was the worst thing that could be happening to me. I felt very alone and lost.

I don’t think there is enough information or awareness of DCIS and its treatment. I couldn’t get my head around why I needed a mastectomy for something that was described as 'pre-invasive'. 

After the surgery went ahead and the results came back, I was told they had found an invasive breast cancer. I felt like my world had collapsed.

I stayed active throughout my chemotherapy

Before I was told I would need chemotherapy for the invasive breast cancer, I had thought a mastectomy was the worst thing I could go through. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.

I worried about my two teenage girls and the impact it would have on them, seeing me like that. I worried about coping with the side effects of chemotherapy and about losing my hair. My biggest worry was that the treatment wouldn't work or the cancer would come back.

Thankfully, I am very lucky to have an amazing, supportive partner who went out of his way to make life as normal as possible for me. I also had my treatment during lockdown, so life wasn’t exactly normal for anyone anyway. In a weird way that was a bit of a comfort for me.

I was determined to be positive throughout my treatment and kept cycling all the way through. This helped my mental health greatly and I don’t think I would have coped as well with the physical side effects of chemotherapy had it not been for this.

I would force myself to go out even when I felt pretty dreadful and would always feel better for it. I cycled hundreds of miles during treatment just to keep sane. Getting out, even if it just for a wee walk, is always beneficial.

I also signed up for a Moving Forward course with Breast Cancer Now that gave tips about adapting to life after a breast cancer diagnosis, which I found really useful. It was so helpful to be in touch with other people going through the same thing as me.

It’s so important to know your own body

Looking back I feel so lucky that I went to see someone about my breast changes, as they were so slight they could easily have gone unnoticed. I could have ignored it and not had a mammogram for another eight years (they become routine at 50), and by then it may have been too late for me.

I want to raise awareness that it is not just lumps you should go and see your GP about. Any changes at all should be checked out.

If there is one piece of advice that I could share with others, it would be ‘know your own body’. If there is anything at all that does not seem right to you, go and get it checked out. It could just save your life, and the earlier you catch things the better.

 

Do you know how to Spot It? Cath Kidston has partnered with Breast Cancer Now to raise awareness and empower women to know how to spot the potential signs and symptoms of breast cancer. 10% from the sale of every product in their new limited-edition Spot It collection will be generously donated to Breast Cancer Now.

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