Sarah's mum supported her when she came out as transgender. This year, she was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer. Sarah writes about returning her mother’s love and care.
Covid-19 delayed my mum’s diagnosis
In late 2018, my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. Following a double mastectomy and radiotherapy, we were thrilled to be told there was no evidence of the disease. This year, however, she discovered that it had come back and spread to other parts of her body.
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, there was a delay in mum getting her diagnosis. It upsets me that she was living with so much pain for months before it was diagnosed as secondary breast cancer. I’m not blaming anyone, but it is just so hard to know that she could have had the appropriate pain medication sooner.
I was already prepared for the worst
The diagnosis didn’t totally surprise me. My mum has never made a big fuss of things, even though she’s had a variety of quite severe health issues for some time now. When she first told me that she had been to see the breast cancer team at the hospital and that they had sent her for a biopsy, I had already prepared myself for the worst.
Despite this, the news was still a massive blow. I think it's one thing knowing something, but it’s not until you hear a doctor saying it that it becomes real. I had an overwhelming sense of sadness and a strange sense of relief that at least we now knew what was going on.
Mum couldn’t have chemotherapy
The oncology team were really great and supportive. They explained what other support was available from them and the Community Macmillan Team. We met with Karen, the Community Macmillan nurse, who made the necessary referrals to the local Occupational Therapy and Adult Social Care service. They then talked with us about what support they could offer to try and allow mum to be as comfortable and independent as she could be for as long as possible.
As mum has various other health issues and the cancer had already spread, the oncologist didn’t think she would cope with treatments such as chemotherapy. They did offer her some palliative radiotherapy to try to reduce the pain in her shoulder and hip, and she has already had one course of this.
I wanted to support her as much as I could
My mum and I have always had a close bond. She’s always been there for me, so I wanted to be there for her. This was hard in the beginning, as she lives alone in Northumberland and I live in Oxford.
At first, I tried to support her as best I could by ringing her a couple of times a day, but I found it difficult. She has some great friends and neighbours, but I hated the thought of her being on her own.
I discussed it with my wife, and we decided that I would stay with my mum in Northumberland for the near future. It’s hard being away from my wife and friends but I know my mum finds it a great sense of security having me stay with her, and it’s so nice to spend this precious time with her.
Mum was there to support me when I needed it most
I came out as transgender in 2013 and I was worried about how my mum would react, as being LGBTQ+ is not something we had ever really talked about.
It was hard for her to begin with in terms of getting used to my new name and pronouns, and I know she was worried about me in terms of what others might think - but I can honestly say she accepted me right from the very beginning and is now one of my fiercest allies. She has referred to me as her daughter from the start and I know she’s happy that I’m now at peace with who I am.
I do think there needs to be more work done on reaching out into the LGBTQ+ community with breast cancer campaigns to address our specific needs. In particular, I think there needs to be more obvious diversity in the sorts of people you see in the media talking about having breast cancer and supporting friends and family members who have it.
I wanted to do something good with this situation
Despite mum’s diagnosis, I really wanted to try to do something positive. I’d never really engaged with wear it pink before, but I saw this as a perfect opportunity to raise some money and awareness for the vital work that Breast Cancer Now do.
So, I came up with the idea of doing the ‘Big Pink Quiz’!
Next thing you know, we had set up the JustGiving page and had raised over £500 within the first week. Now, it’s over £1,000! The support and generosity we’ve had from friends, work colleagues and even strangers is truly humbling.
We’ve put a lot of work into the quiz and we’re really looking forward to having a great evening and raising more money in the process. We are especially excited about the music round as we’ve got a musician friend of ours joining us to ask the questions and the winners will get a signed copy of her latest EP.
Everyone needs support
For anyone else supporting a loved one through a cancer diagnosis, I’d say the most important thing is to reach out for support from wherever you can.
Although there is a lot of talk about cancer in the media, everyone’s story is unique, and every family will deal with it differently. It’s so easy to feel lost and confused when someone you love gets a cancer diagnosis but there really is a lot of support out there. Don’t try and cope with it on your own.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with breast cancer, we are on hand to offer our support.