We’re now in part three of Sarah’s story (you can catch up on parts one and two). Today, Sarah shares the highs and lows of going through treatment and what they don’t tell you.

Sarah after chemotherapyJust before Christmas 2017 I was told I was to have chemotherapy. Just as I thought everything was fine and dandy after my surgery. This wasn’t a conversation I was expecting to have; it just never occurred to me. I had always regarded myself as immortal. I was handed an EIGHT PAGE document of possible side effects, the oncologist explained each and every one to me in detail. I wasn’t listening: too busy crying, mascara making its way around my face again.

My specialist nurse, Orla, had her arm around my shoulders after scraping me up off the floor. She didn’t ask how I was this time – she could already see I was not okay. I was given Christmas and New Year to get through and treatment would start on the 5th January.

I stopped any alcohol consumption after New Year’s Eve – I did drink a bottle of wine that day though, as I didn’t think my body needed anything else to filter out along with whatever I was about to be injected with.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy – nasty word. Implies lots of other nasty things. To be honest, it was nowhere near the horror story I had in my mind. I’m not going to talk about the damned injections into my abdomen for five days after each session – me and needles will never be a happy partnership! Yes, I got tired, had headaches, felt a bit of nausea each time, but I resolved this by eating. It worked for me; cream doughnuts, cakes, biscuits with every mug of tea. I ate every mouthful with a clear conscience and not caring if I gained weight. My nurse assured me that during chemotherapy avoiding weight loss is a good thing. So I didn’t need to take the anti-nausea tablets provided, one less thing for my body to filter. The only nausea really came from “just one more wafer thin mint”! 

Sarah's hair lossAs expected, I have ended up with a short haircut, even though the cold cap did work for me, with about 45% hair loss. I cut it short to take the weight out of it. I lost hair everywhere else too (yes everywhere else!). I didn’t have to shave my legs or armpits for 6 months, all the “peach fuzz” was gone from my face without all the effort of product application, my skin was great and I am through the menopause! *Runs around room punching the air and cheering loudly*

Oh yeah, and my eyebrows and eyelashes fell out. I looked remarkably blank. As it is fashionable to draw eyebrows on these days, I gave it a go. Oh, how I tried. One looked great but damned if I could get the other to resemble the first effort. I gave up on that and remained blank for a few more months.

Radiotherapy

Next was the radiotherapy. Each appointment lasted only about 5 minutes and 19 seconds. Five minutes to get undressed and dressed, 19 seconds of treatment. Every day, in the middle of the day for three weeks. On completion, I had a nice twelve-inch square of sun tan over my right boob whilst the rest of me was sickly pale, as I had been advised to stay out of the sun. Bit hard this year as the weather was screaming hot.

If you’re going through treatment, or preparing to, your journey may be similar or quite different. What not check out our treatment guide, to help you think about your preferences and views when your healthcare team are discussing your treatment with you.

Tomorrow, Sarah is going to take us on her road to recovery and regaining her new normal – join us for the final part in this series.

About the author

Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2017. She’s sharing her story to highlight the importance of breast screening, and difference it makes when you have supportive experts involved in your care.

Sarah is a keen rower who enjoys training on the River Thames, which she loves, and staying healthy. She won her race at the Dublin rowing championships three weeks after her diagnosis and plans to race in Hungary at the World Masters Rowing Championships in September 2019. She lives in south west London with her daughter.