Danni had a difficult time in chemotherapy when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 31 and faced more hurdles when it came to surgery. Cancer has changed her in many ways, but she feels it’s made her a better person. 

Danni, a young white woman, wears a beautiful white dress and blue turban

My initial referral was cancelled because of COVID 

I found a lump when I was breast feeding my son, Dexter. Initially, it was about the size of a blueberry, high up on my chest wall. It looked like a bruise.  

I ignored it for a bit as I thought it was probably something to do with breastfeeding. When I eventually went to the GP, they didn’t seem concerned, but I still got referred to the breast clinic. However, when COVID hit, the appointment was cancelled as it wasn’t considered urgent. 

When I went to rebook, I noticed that the lump had started to grow and the bruise was more noticeable. As we were in lockdown, I spoke to the doctor over the phone. He asked if I thought it was urgent.  

Before that, I hadn’t been too worried, but something made me push for the urgent referral. I was given it and was meant to be seen six weeks later, but a cancellation came up in under two weeks. 

I went in for a biopsy and a mammogram. A week later, they told me I had breast cancer. 

Everything is out of your control when you have cancer 

The breast care nurse was fab. She sat us down and explained everything.  

You learn very quickly that it’s a waiting game at the start. You wait for scans and appointments and results. I found that the hardest. Everything is out of your control, and you just have to wait.  

At the time I thought, ‘I’ve got cancer, why aren’t you treating me tomorrow?’ but they need to put a plan in place for you. 

Of course, my world crashed down momentarily but - as soon as I had a plan - I relaxed quite a lot. I was told to take it one day at a time, so I didn’t look any further than the next appointment in my diary. That helped significantly. 

However, the treatment wasn’t easy. 

I advocated for myself throughout my treatment 

After additional biopsies, they found my left breast was full of tumours and my lymph nodes were affected. I went from potentially just needing a lumpectomy to requiring a full mastectomy, and they wouldn’t be able to save my nipple due to the size of the mass. 

Before any surgery, though, I had chemotherapy: three rounds of FEC and then four rounds of Docetaxel. I developed sepsis on the first round of the Docetaxel and also had colitis. They wanted me to stop the treatment, but I could still feel the lump, which worried me. 

I pushed hard and advocated for myself, after which they agreed to put me on a Paclitaxel. I completed nine weeks of that, and MRI scans showed the lump had become undetectable.  

But even that didn’t go smoothly! I went in for a routine scan after round seven and ended up in hospital for a week after they found a blood clot in my heart. It was a nightmare – my mum had been waiting in the car outside the hospital with my kids. We were meant to go out for dinner after. I had to call and let her know what was happening. 

I just wanted to be symmetrical 

By the time it got to surgery, I had decided I wanted a double mastectomy.  

The waiting list for reconstructive surgery was between 18 months and two years, and I didn’t want to go that long being asymmetrical. I had quite big breasts, and so the idea of just having one didn’t suit my appearance or my lifestyle.  

A big part of my decision was influenced by me being a dancer. I just want to dance normally. I don’t wear revealing clothes, but I would hate to be dancing and be fearful of someone banging into my prosthesis. 

It was a massive decision, and one I didn’t take lightly. I think the doctors thought I’d rushed into it, but they hadn’t considered that I’d already had six months of chemotherapy before that, and I knew the surgery was coming. 

I felt that it was hard at times to voice my opinions, and that other people were trying to make decisions about my body. I was the one that would have to look in the mirror, or have a bath, or go swimming with my children. I wanted to look the best I possibly can given the circumstances that I have to live with. 

Cancer isn’t nice, but it isn’t all bad either 

I do sometimes look at old photos and not recognise myself. I look at myself while brushing my teeth, and I have no eyelashes and have had my brows microbladed. It changes your whole face.  

I shaved my hair off exactly two weeks after the start of my chemo when it started to fall out. I knew it was coming. I would say it was worse in my head, so getting rid of it was actually quite liberating. That daily stress of worrying if it was falling out was gone. 

I did go through a paranoid stage when I thought that everyone was staring at me in my headscarf. However, you soon realise that people don’t actually care, and you get used to it very quickly. Now I am so used to seeing myself with no hair that when it started growing back it shocked me! 

Of course, cancer isn’t nice, and nobody wants it – but it’s not all bad. I’ve had some of the best days of my life in the last six months. I’ve had fun times with my friends and family, making memories and doing things together. Treatment was a nightmare, yes – but it wasn’t the end of the world. 

Going through cancer changes you, but I actually think I am a better person now than I was before.   

 

Danni shared her story with us as part of our Fashion Targets Breast Cancer Campaign. This year, we've teamed up with River Island and Dorothy Perkins to create the 'Fashion. Your Story' collection. By purchasing from the collection, you'll be supporting people like Ruth, and helping fund vital research and care through Breast Cancer Now.

Fashion Targets Breast Cancer