Exactly one year on since she was diagnosed, Anita looks back on her journey and how far she still has yet to go.
My world was turned upside down
Today, 7 May 2020, is my Cancerversary - one year exactly since I was diagnosed. A day of mixed emotions and they say that writing heals, so perhaps the best way for me to channel this is by sharing my journey, in the hope that it helps someone somewhere.
I got referred in April last year to get something small checked, just to be safe, which the consultant felt was nothing to worry about - in fact after doing all the testing and examining, she told me to go and enjoy my Easter holiday with my boys. So that is what I did, then went along to the results appointment a few weeks later in quite a carefree manner, never expecting to hear those words which turn your world upside down.
It felt like history repeating itself
Everything from my mum’s journey came flooding back, as she also had breast cancer, but hers was more advanced and aggressive. Sadly, we lost her 13 years ago to this disease.
In that moment, it felt like history was repeating itself - but I had only turned 40 the year before and I had big plans! When it had eventually sunk in, I decided that would be the first and last time I would ask the question ‘was I going to survive this?’ I had to keep focusing on the fact that it had been caught early and that things have come a long way in this field since my mum’s time.
We all pulled together
So the next day, and every day after that, was about moving forwards and visualising what my life would be like on the other side of it all. The hardest thing was telling the boys (now aged eight and 11, and my older son has high-functioning autism). Nothing prepares you for that. But we found the courage, pulled together and drew strength from our loved ones.
Everything was then to come my way. First, there was the surgery: a mastectomy, as the initial small lump had started to turn into a few more lumps, then the intense, ‘oestrogen squashing’ hormonal treatment plan and its side effects (monthly Zoladex injections and daily tamoxifen for 10 years), and the follow-up re-construction surgery (which has now been postponed due to Covid-19) – all a short term sacrifice for a long term gain, I kept telling myself.
It is still possible to find hope
Looking back, it doesn’t seem real at times and I wonder whether it’s better to forget and move on. On the other hand, I feel that cancer survivors need to continue sharing. Maybe that way, more people will remember to listen to their bodies and not ignore ‘small’ things, they will take control of what they can, they will feel hopeful in the darkest of times and ultimately feel less scared about the ‘C’ word. It’s out there and affecting people in so many ways, but there is also so much that can be done.
Final thoughts? I feel that (in between the sad and worrying moments), in the last year I have also lived, loved, laughed and grown in ways I never thought possible. I also know that I’m not done and the best is still to come. I had cancer, but cancer didn’t have me.
Whether you have been recently diagnosed or are further along with your cancer journey, you can find support in our Forum.