PUBLISHED ON: 11 August 2020

On Valentine’s Day last year, all of Louisa's plans came crashing down when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thankfully, our Someone Like Me service was there to help her through.

Louisa during treatment

I got the news on Valentine’s Day

I found a lump in the shower at the end of January 2019 and, after a chat with friends, I took myself to the doctor. They believed it was a cyst but referred me to the hospital anyway.

There was no reason for me to think it was cancer. There was no history in my family, I had never smoked, I drank rarely and had been the fittest and healthiest I’d ever been. It couldn’t be cancer.

However, after an initial consultation, a mammogram, an ultrasound, and a biopsy, I got the results.

It was 14 February. Not only my first Valentine’s Day with my partner, Duncan, but also the day I found out I had breast cancer. 

All my plans came crashing down

I had just turned 41 and it had taken a lifetime to find Duncan, but our plans of travelling and starting a family - albeit quite late at my age - came crashing down around us in an instant.

It is a weird feeling. I felt like I stopped breathing. Although rationally the outcome for people diagnosed with cancer is improving all the time, you can’t help thinking the worst. 

I went into autopilot, feeling that I had to put all my ducks in a row.

By the time I’d left the hospital car park I’d cancelled my place on an upcoming scuba trip and called my friend at work to tell my boss that I wouldn’t be in for the rest of the day. I began work on writing a will.

I sought urgent fertility treatment

I was told that it was caught early. The lump was relatively small, and it didn’t look as if my lymph nodes were affected, which was great news. Later, though, there was evidence that it had spread to one of my sentinel nodes. This initiated a whirlwind of events.

Chemotherapy could affect my fertility and, due to my age, I was on a knife-edge as to whether it would put me in to permanent menopause. I was urgently referred to the fertility clinic. I only had one shot at this so diligently injected myself every day. I had to have a full bone and body scan before chemotherapy, but it couldn’t be done until the I’d completed the fertility treatment.

Initially, 12 eggs were collected and fertilised. But, after just six days, only two embryos were viable. I started thinking that everything was stacked against me and I needed help. I’d gone from, ‘I’m going to fight this and be fine,’ to, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’

Louisa at the beginning of her treatment

That’s when I turned to Someone Like Me

I’d been given so many leaflets in the previous weeks that I’d just stored away. Now was the time to rip the plaster off and deal with them.

I found some information about Becca and downloaded the app which provided information on Breast Cancer Now’s Someone Like Me service, so registered online and they called me back quickly. It was so easy to speak to the people at Breast Cancer Now. I gave them a summary of my situation and they endeavoured to find someone who I could relate to.

Within two weeks, I was speaking to Zahida – our first conversation was the day before my first chemo session. She was my saviour. I could talk to her about how I was feeling emotionally and physically – she completely understood everything I was going through. I could cry, rant, ask questions and voice all my anxieties to the extent that I felt I couldn’t do with my family and friends.

It kept me positive in dark times

Zahida was the voice of reason and reassurance that what I was feeling and experiencing was normal for the situation I was in. She shared her similar experiences. It wasn’t all doom and gloom. We laughed at certain things that had happened just as much as I cried. If she could do it, then so could I.

It was as if Zahida had a sixth sense about when to call. When I was low or was having a particularly tough time, she called. My grandfather passed away in the middle of my chemo on the same night that I was hospitalised with an infection in my PICC line and blood clots in my shoulder. She called me the following evening, just when I needed her. When my liver function results delayed one of my chemo sessions, she called.

Zahida’s calls kept reminding me that there is light at the end of the long tunnel, which helped me stay mostly positive. I am so glad that I decided to reach out to Someone Like Me, and I’ve since told many people about how wonderful it is. I will forever be grateful to Breast Cancer Now and to Zahida.

I had so much support

I am also extremely lucky to have an amazing partner, family and friends. Their response was an outpouring of love and support, which was overwhelming. I hadn’t realised how many people in my life cared for me so deeply. I am indebted to them all for getting me through. My house looked like a florist for the whole of my treatment, I had regular coffee visits and they even accompanied me to chemo sessions. My partner and my aunt were rocks and I relied on them so much.

Now, my partner and I have a dog, are about to buy a house together, and I just had my one-year check-up... and it’s all good! Onward and upward – I have two embryos waiting for me!

My advice to others would be to not suffer in silence. There are people there to help you and to make your life a little easier. Use Someone Like Me. Get yourself a Zahida

Whatever you are concerned about, whether it's the shock of a diagnosis, making decisions about treatment or how to adjust to life afterwards, or that you are feeling isolated, support is just a phone call or email away.

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