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When Anna was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, she expected the worst from her treatment. However, with support from family and friends, she was able to get through it with positivity.
I found a lump on 1 February last year. I must admit, I thought from the very beginning that it was going to be bad, as it was in the upper quadrant near my armpit, which I think I’d read was a common place for breast cancer to occur.
Thankfully, the GP was brilliant. I’d booked an appointment for a couple of weeks later, but actually had a routine mammogram in the meantime, so they already had the results of that when I turned up.
I had expected them to be a bit wishy washy and tell me I needed further tests, but the consultant almost immediately said they believed it was cancer. I did still need a biopsy to be sure but, two weeks later, everything was confirmed.
To begin with, they thought I was oestrogen positive, so they recommended a lumpectomy and sent some samples off for an Oncotype test. When those results came back, however, it turned out the cancer was triple negative. This meant that, even though the cancer hadn’t spread to any lymph nodes, I’d need the full whammy with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
I had the lumpectomy at the beginning of March and, even though I had quite a bad haematoma, I was able to do the exercises and retain a full range of movement. The surgeon was fantastic, too. I recovered quickly and the result looks much better than I had expected.
On 21 May, I started chemotherapy – I remember because it’s my daughter’s birthday. I had three rounds of EC and then 12 weeks of paclitaxel.
I’ve got four children: three sons and a daughter. I think my daughter was the only one who found my diagnosis difficult to deal with, but only because she was working with a teacher who had been diagnosed with the same thing a month before I was. She’d already heard from her how bad it was, and she knew what would soon be ahead for me.
My husband has been brilliant, too. He had one wobble at the beginning, but since then he’s always been there for me, taking me out for walks, dropping me off and waiting for me during chemotherapy. Having someone with me throughout, especially to motivate me to exercise, really helps.
Overall, though, we’re quite a stoical family. We just tend to get on with things, and I found that quite helpful.
When my hair started to fall out, I worried it’d upset me to cut it off. I'd seen so many pictures and videos of people doing it and then crying. However, mine got to the point where it was so itchy and annoying, I just had to do it – and I thought it was great!
My son, Daniel, videoed me having it all shaved off in the garden, and we were laughing throughout the whole thing. He was saying things like, ‘Mum, this is great – I'm going to be able to slap you on your bald head!’
I think we’ve always joked about it because, well, there’s not much point in doing anything else.
Because of how the media portrays cancer treatment, I was expecting to feel terrible all the time. I thought I’d be in bed, totally unable to function. But, other than sometimes being a bit slower, I was mostly able to just carry on and do everything as normal.
I don’t know whether it was just luck, or if it had anything to do with fasting before treatments. I made sure not to eat anything for 24 hours before chemotherapy, and I hardly needed any of the medication they gave me, I didn’t get any nausea, tingling fingers or a sore mouth.
Even getting the chemotherapy wasn’t that bad. You just sit in a chair for a bit and the staff take care of you – they're all lovely.
I was really grateful for the Forum and Breast Cancer Now’s website because it’s full of reassuring stories and other people’s positive experiences. It was also a place where I saw other people asking questions and receiving really helpful responses from nurses or Breast Cancer Now staff or other Forum users.
I wanted to share my own story to let people know that treatment can be OK, and that you shouldn’t assume the worst. I don’t want people to think I’m rubbing their nose in it if they have had a bad experience; I just want to give some hope to anyone who is yet to go through it.
While I was going through everything, I wanted to put a post up on Facebook to let everyone know what I’d gone through but also that I was doing OK. At the same time, I wanted to give something back, and I saw that you could set up a Facebook Fundraiser which allows people to donate just by clicking on your status.
It was around the time of my birthday and almost the anniversary of my diagnosis, so it felt like a good time to put something out there.
As well as raising over £1,700 for Breast Cancer Now, it turned out to be really therapeutic. So many people contacted me, including some lovely friends I hadn’t spoken to in a long time. Some people even got in touch to say they’d had similar things happen to them – but it’s not really something we speak about if you just happen to run into someone once in a while.
It was so simple, but also felt so good to be doing something like this. All the care and research that comes from it is so important, and seeing so much support from people was just fantastic.
Whether you have been through a diagnosis of breast cancer or not, you can easily get involved with raising money for vital research and care. Setting up a Facebook fundraiser takes just minutes to do, and allows friends and family to donate instantly.