Meet Sukhy. She’s taken part in our ‘If I had more time’ campaign for Breast Cancer Awareness Month – helping us put a spotlight on secondary breast cancer, and how our research can help people like Sukhy to have more time.
Sukhy told us about her secondary breast cancer diagnosis, and how she wants research to provide more options for people in her position.
How were you first diagnosed with breast cancer?
I was only 35 when I was diagnosed with primary breast cancer in December 2019. I had multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and hormone treatment. Then, in March last year, I was signed off from oncology.
When did you know the cancer had come back?
About a month or so later I started to feel fatigued, and I returned to hospital. They told me that my liver enzymes were slightly heightened, but it was probably just the general day to day life of being a single mum. I ran in my son’s sports day in June and could feel a pain in my sternum. My oncologist said everything was fine, so I thought I’d just pulled a muscle. I ignored it for a few weeks before my sister told me to go to hospital to get it checked out. I managed to get an appointment quite quickly with my oncologist. I was sent for a CT scan, confirming that I had cancer in my bones and liver. I was absolutely devastated. When you get signed off from treatment, you hope you’ll have a long time to enjoy life – to not even make 2 years is horrible.
How has secondary breast cancer impacted your life?
The diagnosis impacted my life in 2 ways. I’m a lot less stressed, which seems strange, but when you have a secondary diagnosis, you know that things can change really quickly, so I try not to worry about little things any more, and try to make the most of things I can.
On the flip side, I think about death all the time. It isn’t always negative as I’ve planned all the things I want to do, sorted my will and semi-planned my funeral. I spend lots of time with my kids now and we appreciate time together more.
It’s tough as you don’t always have good days. You can’t trust or control your own body. You can feel great but inside it’s doing something completely different, and you have to trust the treatment and see what happens. I would’ve crumbled a long time ago if I didn’t have the people around me to support me.
Why is our research important to you?
Having more research focused on secondary breast cancer would mean that people living with secondaries would be able to have hope to live longer. We are often told that we only have a few lines of treatment and, once those are no longer working, we are left to die. If we were able to have further lines of treatment opened up and more options for life, it would mean the world.
Why did you want to be part of the ‘If I had more time’ campaign?
When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer I had never seen a South Asian person with cancer, so I was massively shocked that it had happened to me. It’s really important to have representation. If someone can see me, and I potentially look like them, it makes them a lot more aware of what could happen to them, and I think that’s so important.
I want to help other South Asian people with breast cancer to feel less lonely. If I had seen more representation of South Asian people with secondary breast cancer, it would’ve made me feel less alone.
What would you do if you had more time?
If I could see my kids start secondary school, that would mean everything.
Another milestone I’d like to get to would be my 40th birthday, which is coming up in February. I initially wanted to have a massive 80s themes party with lots of amazing food and confetti canons but now I’ve decided to go on a holiday with a group of people who mean a lot to me and just connect with them in a really relaxed setting.
Ever since I was 18, I wanted a full-sleeve tattoo. My mum and dad despise tattoos, but I decided last year that life is too short. The tattoo makes me really happy. The yellow rose is for friendship. I want to honour my friends for all their support. The violets are for my son’s birth month and the lily of the valley is for my daughter’s birth month – it shows how much they mean to me.