Sara never expected breast cancer to happen to her. This World Cancer Day, she’s helping to spread the message that you’re not alone after a diagnosis, and that there’s support out there for everyone affected by cancer.
I never expected breast cancer to happen to me
I was diagnosed with primary breast cancer in 2016. It was a huge shock. I was only 42, and a mother to two young children. Getting breast cancer wasn’t something I ever expected to happen to me.
Treatment included surgery to remove all the lymph nodes in my left armpit. My breast cancer was a little unusual because it didn't present as a lump. I had six months of chemotherapy, three weeks of daily radiotherapy, a year of Herceptin, and now I’m on Tamoxifen for five to 10 years.
I felt so many emotions at the end of treatment
I visited the hospital for treatment over the course of 18 months. When it came to an end, I felt many emotions. I was relieved to have finished treatment and to be declared ‘No Evidence of Disease’ (NED), but I was also disappointed the doctors couldn't tell me I was 100 per cent cured.
I had to learn to trust my body again
It was, and still is, scary to think that breast cancer could come back as a recurrence or spread into secondary breast cancer. During treatment, you feel as though you're actively doing something to get better. Once it ends, there's a feeling of helplessness. You must rely on yourself to keep well and learn to trust your body. This is hard to do when it’s your body that let you down in the first place.
Moving forward takes time
With the help of regular exercise, a healthy diet, listening to my body, and a lot of patience, I'm feeling very good now physically. I also feel much better on an emotional level. I've used tools to help my mental health after my cancer diagnosis, including talking to a counsellor, writing about my experience (my book, Ticking Off Breast Cancer, came out in September 2019), and practising mindfulness and meditation. This combination has helped me move beyond cancer.
World Cancer Day is a chance to come together
World Cancer Day on 4 February is a day to recognise a large proportion of the population will receive a cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives. By virtue of the amazing cancer community in the UK, there’s a vast amount of support out there. It's a day to bring all the organisations, charities and individuals together to show just how extensive the support is.
World Cancer Day is also a time to bring cancer to the attention of people whose lives have not been affected by cancer. We can encourage everyone to support the research that can improve the lives of those diagnosed.
Personally, I’ll be reflecting on my own cancer diagnosis and what I went through. But at the same time, I’ll celebrate the fact that I’m currently ‘NED’ and express my gratitude to all the researchers and scientists who made this possible.
I’m standing with the cancer community
This year, I was honoured to represent Breast Cancer Now in a World Cancer Day film collaboration, led by Cancer Central. Bringing together a bunch of charities, organisations and individuals to make a film about standing together to support the cancer community, just sums up World Cancer Day for me.
My book and website, Ticking off Breast Cancer, informs people about the support and resources available to them. Through this work, I’ve met some fantastic people who work in one way or another to help cancer patients. World Cancer Day is a day that can help showcase all the resources out there in the community.
Cancer can feel so isolating and lonely
Breast cancer, or indeed any type of cancer, can feel incredibly isolating and lonely. I want people to know that support is out there – and that there is something for everyone. Whether it's going to a cancer support group, reading personal stories or blogs, connecting with fellow cancer patients on forums or social media, reading books about cancer, or talking to someone on the phone, I want people to know that you're not in this on your own.
We're all in this together. Please watch and share our film on 4 February to show your support for everyone affected by cancer this World Cancer Day.