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Danni and her grandmothers, smiling

Seeing both my grandmothers go through breast cancer showed me how strong they are

As a teenager, Danni felt helpless when she saw how treatment affected her grandmothers. Over time, she learned how to show them she cared.

I felt helpless when my grandmothers were diagnosed 

I was 16 when my nan was first diagnosed with breast cancer. It had somehow been missed by the usual mammogram checks, but luckily her GP insisted she should go for an ultrasound.  

My other grandma was diagnosed the next year when I was 17, which was followed by my nan being diagnosed again when I was 18. It was a completely different type to what she had the first time. 

If I were to describe how I felt each time we got the news, the only word that comes to mind is helpless.  

I spent every day watching them so intensely for any sign of pain or discomfort. I was always second-guessing how they felt, but most of the time, they were probably coping better than I was! 

During that time, I saw pure, raw strength and determination from them - but it was 3 years of a lot of heartache and worry.  

They both told me about their struggles  

Both my grandmothers received radiotherapy, and my nan had a mastectomy when she was diagnosed the second time.  

I could see in their eyes how tired and uncomfortable they were throughout the treatment, but they would never admit it. They come from a different generation to me, I suppose. 

However, they were both very open about the physical changes they experienced. I had moved in with my grandma when she had her operation, as my grandad had recently passed, so she was very honest with me. Being able to see what she was going through really helped me to process it.  

My nan struggled a little more to begin with, especially when looking in the mirror. But now she openly jokes about taking ‘the girls’ out to get dressed - ‘the girls’ being her prosthesis! 

My grandmothers’ cancers were found to not be hereditary, thankfully, but I religiously check myself for signs. What is 2 minutes out of my day verses months (and sometimes years) of something far more life-changing? 

The best thing you can do is listen 

To anyone else supporting a loved one through breast cancer, I would give this advice: Love. Learn. Listen.  

Love them every minute of every day. This can be shown through a quick Facetime call or some unexpected flowers - especially in these unprecedented times when we might not be able to share a hug.  

Learn and educate yourself. I was much younger when my grandmothers were sick, but I feel that if I had understood some of the processes better it would have made it easier for me to support them and my immediate family.  

But honestly, and most importantly, I would say listen. Listen to their concerns and appreciate the days where they might want to offload and have a good cry.

How to support someone with breast cancer

If, like Danni, you're supporting someone through a breast cancer diagnosis, you may find it helpful to check out our information pages.

Supporting a loved one

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