PUBLISHED ON: 19 March 2020

In May 2014, Stella found a strain put on her family life when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  

Stella sitting in chair outside

My son struggled with the news 

I have a son and a stepson. When I found out I had a grade three invasive ductal carcinoma, it was difficult to tell them. 

My stepson was around 19, so he understood what was going on, and he tried to support me as best as he could. But my nine-year-old didn’t react as well. He couldn’t express himself properly. He bottled things up, became a bit more naughty.  

I later understood this was just his way of dealing with things, of trying to get my time and attention.  

I couldn’t be present for my family 

Unfortunately, I was completely zapped by chemotherapy. I couldn’t be present for my family like I usually was. I was in bed more often than not. At worst, I would be out of it for close to a week before I could get back enough energy to function normally. 

On top of that, I had a lot of emotional and psychological trauma. I lost my hair and eyebrows, my fingernails and toenails, which really affected my confidence.  

I am so grateful for support 

I was very lucky to get the support I did from my husband. He travels a lot for work, so sometimes he couldn’t be there for me. However, he was there when I was diagnosed, holding my hand. And he was always available when I was having chemotherapy – even if he was only able to drop me off and pick me up after. He stepped in to help whenever he could. 

Eventually, I had to tell my mum what was happening. 

I had already lost a brother and sister, and my dad had died not long before my diagnosis. Because of that, it didn’t feel right telling her over the phone. So I waited until I could see her face-to-face: that way she could see I was having treatment and that I was going to be ok.  

Having her around was so helpful. It was good to have more support and someone I could confide in. Even so, I would edit what I said to her. I think we’re all like that with our mothers – we don’t want to worry them.  

Seek help where you can 

If you’re going through breast cancer you need all the support you can get. You shouldn’t hide from your loved ones. If possible, you should talk to your children honestly, and be as open as you can about what you’re going through.  

Your children can even be a great source of support. They might not be able to physically do things for you, but they can still support you emotionally. We can underestimate them. My son understood what was happening, he just didn’t know how to express his emotions. 

Let people get involved. Let them know if you’re not able to cope. When you are able to be present for people, be present. But if you can’t, be honest about that. 


Need to talk to someone? Our breast care nurses and highly trained staff on our free and confidential Helpline are here for you, your family and friends. So, whether you have been diagnosed with breast cancer yourself, or have questions about a loved one- we’re ready to listen. Call 0808 800 6000 or email

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