This week, we're sharing Sarah's breast cancer journey - today she tells us about the first few weeks of her journey, which starts with an incredible victory!

Sarah and partner rowing

I’m in Dublin, at a rowing championships, and it’s three weeks since I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I only decided to compete two days ago – I was having a crisis funnily enough. Orla, my specialist breast cancer nurse at Charing Cross Hospital, calls me seconds before I start my pre-race day pub crawl – just seeing the hospital number come up on the phone is enough to raise my heart rate to blockbuster levels.

Orla is great, she gets me laughing and explains everything in terms I can understand about my imminent surgery. Then I have a few drinks… followed by a few more. I let my hair down so to speak, and for the first time since D-Day (Diagnosis Day) I achieve a little bit of escapism for a few hours. And a headache for the next morning.

I race, and I win, and celebrate and drink some more. On departing the race venue, I tell all my fellow competitors to watch this space: I will be back for next year’s competition. The kind words and hugs on departure are overwhelming; I do hate it when people make me cry. That was September 2017. (And I did go back.)

Diagnosis

Sarah before diagnosis

They found that little tumour that changed everything at my routine breast screening. Worst case scenario was that it was only twelve months old, as it had not been detected at the previous routine checks – well that had to be good news. I even considered naming it, but nothing that can be repeated here.

On meeting with the consultant (what a legend!) and Orla, the next few weeks were explained to me. The surgeon quickly got a handle on me and was direct and straightforward with no fluffiness - I respond best to this direct approach. Orla sat back and watched me, listening to my replies. On finishing Orla and I went into the next room where she asked if I understood the process and she got me some of the relevant Macmillan booklets that covered every aspect of surgery, recovery, support and so forth. She was fab and I had loads of information – everything I thought I needed to know.

Everything was sort of ok until she asked how I really was. Then everything was not ok, that was it, the flood gates opened and I cried long and hard with her. She was very comforting and didn’t once comment on the mascara that had gone flooding down my face. She was with me at nearly all my appointments and called me almost every Friday to touch base. She always had me laughing – a calm and reassuring demeanour at all times.

Sarah’s story shows how important it is to catch breast cancer early. Breast screening saves lives – if you’re between 50 and 70, you should be invited for screening every three years. Read our guide to the potential benefits and risks of breast screening and what to expect at your appointment.

Tomorrow, Sarah shares the next part of her story and takes us through the intricacies of surgery…

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.