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Jade was only 27 the first time she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and treatment meant she couldn’t care for her young son. When she faced a recurrence three years later, she had a daughter to care for, too. She tells us about the experience and how breast cancer has changed her as a parent.
The day I got the news was a whirlwind. I don’t recall much, only that I was told I had stage three breast cancer. My whole life fell apart at those words. I was only 27 and had an 18-month-old son – I had no idea how I was going to get through it.
When I think back to it now, I just remember there being a black splodge on the wall, and I focused on that while they gave me all the information. Thankfully, my partner’s mother was there with me. She wrote down everything I needed to know.
Three weeks later, I started chemotherapy.
It didn’t go smoothly; I was hospitalised twice, and each time was kept in for a week. My white blood cell count dropped and I got an infection. The second time I was admitted it was Christmas Eve, which was particularly rough as my little boy, Charlie, was at the age where he had just started to understand Christmas.
One of the hardest things was that I couldn’t be the mum I wanted to be. I couldn’t care for myself or my son. We had to rely on other people to do things for us.
When I went on to have radiotherapy, I found out I had a mutated PALB2 gene which made me more likely to develop breast cancer. The surgeon told me that, if he had known this earlier, he would have given me a mastectomy.
I was told that I wouldn’t be able to have more kids after chemotherapy. At that point, I wasn’t sure if I wanted more or not, but decided not to have any eggs harvested before beginning treatment because I didn’t want to prolong it any further. I wanted to survive for the son I already had.
However, at the start of 2020, two-and-a-half years after my diagnosis, my daughter Margot was born. She was a little miracle.
From January to March, we were in our happy little bubble. Then, of course, COVID hit.
We did our best to stumble on through with two little ones to look after, but things went from bad to worse in August when I noticed my breast had changed shape. I couldn’t feel any lumps and bumps, but I already had a lot of scar tissue in the area so it was difficult to tell. Then, I noticed a dimple.
I felt I already knew what it was but I didn’t do anything about it for a couple of months. It sounds silly, but I didn’t want this new life I had to be ruined. I just hoped it would go away by itself.
Finally, I realised I had to get it checked out – not for my sake, but for my kids'.
Three years and 10 days after I first got that awful news, I was diagnosed again. It was the same room, the same surgeon, and the same breast care nurse.
This time around, I didn’t have anyone with me at my appointments. It already felt worse because I knew how bad it had gone the first time, and with nobody to support me I almost didn’t turn up.
The whole time, I just kept thinking of my children. It was Charlie’s first year at school, and with it already being disrupted by COVID we didn’t want anything else to deal with. He was old enough to understand a bit more about what was happening with me this time, but he was such a resilient boy.
Things were especially tough with my little girl, however. I was so ill after each chemotherapy session that I was away from her for a week at a time. Because she’d been born shortly before COVID, I had previously been with her all the time. She hadn’t known anything else. It was heart-breaking for both of us.
I finally finished treatment in March 2021. I still get tired days now and then, but on the whole I feel so much better.
I initially struggled with my mastectomy and reconstruction, too. I didn’t want to admit to myself that it would be quite a major operation, and hadn’t quite prepared for recovery to take so long.
The hardest part about it was that I couldn’t pick Margot up. She was so clingy at the time, and would follow me whenever I went anywhere. I couldn’t have her on my front for about six weeks.
Now I’m recovered, we’re making up for all the lost time and cuddles we didn’t get.
Since going through breast cancer, I’m so much more patient and forgiving of the little things. I used to be quite a strict parent, now I don’t sweat the small stuff.
I also think I’m happier than I used to be. I’m a lot kinder to myself. I used to think I had to look and act a certain way, but now, if I’m having a rough day, I just accept it. I’m far more accepting of all emotions.
The experience also taught me who my real friends are. The ones who stuck around will be friends for life, and I grew even closer to my family who isolated with us during lockdown in order to make sure we were alright.
For any other mothers or younger women out there: please remember to check yourself and show your boobs some love. It’s an ongoing process, but I’m learning to love my boobs again.
This Mother's Day it's important to 'Show Your Boobs Some Love' and make sure you know what's normal for you. Tickled Pink are working together with us and @CoppaFeelPeople to help change the future of breast cancer in the UK. Check out the Asda website to find further information about #TickledPink and the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.