When Nana was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, she felt overwhelmed by uncertainty. She shares how she consciously adopted a positive mindset, and how she’s since given back by fundraising.
The news about Sarah Harding made me act quickly
In September 2020, I woke up one morning and just knew something wasn’t right. It felt like I had a hazelnut on the front of my right breast. My grandmother had breast cancer in her 50s, so I’d always been aware of the possibility of getting it and would check myself whenever I remembered.
I mentioned it to my partner, and he suggested it could be an injury from working out.
A couple of days later, I saw on the news that singer Sarah Harding was talking about going through treatment for secondary breast cancer. That made me realise I had to contact my GP. Though it’s sad she died so young, I am grateful she talked about her diagnosis – it really brought the urgency to my consciousness.
I got a referral to a breast clinic and went in thinking I was OK. I was nervous, but hopeful. Almost immediately after the mammogram, however, they did a biopsy in three different locations.
Two weeks later, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer which had spread to my lymph node.
There are so many negative thoughts at first
The doctor was so straightforward, but he took me through everything so fast. I kept asking myself: am I dreaming? I was relatively calm, but I couldn’t speak – my head was spinning.
I had four wobbly days after that, but realised I needed to get my support system ready for upcoming treatment. I reached out to my hypnotherapist as I wanted her to help me control my fear, and she was amazing.
When you speak with a doctor, they give you so many statistics and you end up thinking of the worst-case scenario. I had thoughts such as, ‘Should I be writing a will?’ and it just wasn’t good for me. However, through hypnotherapy, I can shift my focus and change my mindset, and that enabled me to see the positives instead.
I also have a good friend who does reiki, so I arranged some treatments. I also looked at the Breast Cancer Now website to familiarise myself with what to expect, and made sure to avoid Dr Google.
I needed a five-month course chemotherapy straight away, starting with four sessions of EC before moving on to paclitaxel and carboplatin.
I decided to take control wherever I could
When I was first referred to the breast clinic, I had no say in what was happening. It was like being put on a train and I had no say in where it was going or where I could sit.
With the help of my best friend, I found a consultant who was a specialist in triple negative breast cancer, and got referred to him. That made me feel more in control, at least, as I had some say in what was going to happen.
After my first round of chemo, my body felt like it was full of liquid, but I was OK.
Throughout it all, I never felt sick, and I know I’m lucky with that. I meditated every day. I had reiki once a week. I went out for a walk whenever I could.
I decided that any feelings I had, I would let out. I sang, I read lots of books, I questioned the meaning of life. In a way, it was quite idyllic. Before, I had always been rushing around, but this really gave me time to myself.
It did become tough around Christmas because of fatigue, but I would just sleep whenever I wanted. I also ate whenever I wanted. I’m a big foodie, and had initially worried I wouldn’t be able to enjoy food as much. I had two meetings with nutritionists to discuss what I could and couldn’t eat.
I was also lucky enough to access psychological support through the hospital, and they considered my mental as well as physical health.
I wanted to give back somehow
When I finished treatment, I really wanted to give something back by way of thanks for all the love, support and goodwill I had received during that time. I was overwhelmed with the care I’d got from people – I'd never understood that I could receive that before.
Around that time, I saw that my friend Yuki was doing a cooking class in aid of her friend who’d passed away not long before. I told her I wanted to help out in some way, but I also wasn’t quite ready yet.
When you're diagnosed, it's like your house is on fire: you get out as quickly as you can. But when the fire has burnt out, and the treatment slows down, you go back and you find what's left of yourself. I needed that time to go back and build myself up.
In the summer, I saw something about Afternoon Tea. It looked like such a lovely thing to do, but I wanted to put my own twist on it, and I wanted it to be about awareness as well as fundraising.
Hosting an Afternoon Tea was such a wonderful experience
I ended up doing a Japanese style Afternoon Tea in November. I reached out to a restaurant in South Kensington and asked if I could use their space, which they kindly allowed me to do. I hired special equipment and incorporated lots of Japanese traditions.
I knew I would have limited capacity but still wanted to raise as much money as possible, so I opened up on social media. I shared my story, including a picture of myself when I had very little hair, as I thought it would show the true impact of breast cancer.
I set up a JustGiving page and arranged a raffle with some amazing prizes from really generous donors, including a tour of the Tower of London and some custom Saville Row slippers.
All told, we raised over £6,000. Everyone had such a lovely day, especially as Covid restrictions meant we hadn’t had the opportunity to get together in a while. It was also great for me, personally, as I got the opportunity to talk to people and share the importance of checking their breasts.
Whether you have a personal experience of breast cancer or not, we're always grateful for people's fundraising efforts. If Nana's story has inspired you, why not give fundraising a go yourself?