Welcome to the final part of this mini blog series – if you haven’t read it yet, start with part one – Sarah is sharing how she came out the other side and some of the ways she has found the positives from her experience.

Sarah after treatmentSo, I am back at work full time. I raced at the 2018 Rowing Championships. I won.

I had a heap more appointments than I’ve told you about so far, lots of little steps on the way during a long unplanned walk. I was guided through the entire process by some very special people, and it has been a pleasure to have met them.

You learn loads of things, like freezing pineapple juice in ice cube trays and sucking on them as an enzyme helps to stop the inside of your mouth getting sore, or chewing/sucking sweets whilst the cold cap cools (kept my mind occupied so I didn’t focus on the cold), painting your finger and toe nails to prevent flaking – some groovy colours out there! And I learnt how to deal with my reactions, emotions, feelings and the responses of family, friends and colleagues. When I felt angry I thrashed it out in the gym; when I didn’t feel angry – well I thrashed it out in the gym and ate cake afterwards.

The single most difficult thing through this was the first time I combed out my hair. I knew it was going to fall out to some extent but nothing prepared me for the shock when it actually happened. I’m happy to say that it has grown back with no issue, and I still sport the short haircut.

I visited a few hairdressers to ask about “chemo hair” but sadly they knew nothing that would help. It might be worth noting though, after my internet research: Trevor Sorbie has many salons and some, if not all, of the staff in his shops are trained to deal with chemo patients. The lady who dealt with me early on was everything I needed in personality, understanding, knowledge and skill. I am now a regular there and love each visit.

Recovery from the surgeries, I believe has been made easier by my physical fitness/healthy lifestyle, and maybe more by my mental determination to not let this affect me or my life going forward. Of course it has knocked my confidence, but this creeps back daily as does my fitness. My managers have been incredibly supportive, as has the rest of the organisation I work for. We also have a cancer support group that I now help with whenever I can.

I am back in full training, have joined a new rowing club and have started racing longer distances. Hell, I may even run a marathon! (That was a joke, that will never EVER happen.) I hate running and much prefer sports where I can sit down.

Imminently I will be having the last bit of surgery to “balance” me up, I look a bit daft at the moment. The right is nice and pert, as promised, and the left I can almost tuck into my belt. Hurrah for Marks and Spencer’s sports bras.

My life’s priorities have changed and I got a tattoo! I feel redesigned, reinvented and reinvigorated and revisiting my immortal standing in life. Sadly I have had to start shaving my legs again but that’s a good thing isn’t it? I look forward to seeing Orla again next week as she has been such a rock in my unforeseen voyage. The whole experience has been what I perceive to be an “inconvenience” in my life, but it is the new normal for me and it’s made me stronger and more resilient.

PMA all the way - POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE.

And the tattoo?

Simply: Courage does not always roar.

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In October 2018 I had some more surgery, this time to balance me up.

Once again I had a chest full of marker pen! There was about an inch to inch and a half disparity in the height of my nipples but Mr Al-Mufti, the perfectionist that he is, has lifted my left side to match the new right side. He even said that I was pointing off to the right slightly from the original surgery (I hadn’t actually noticed this) so he corrected that too. The results are incredible. I feel truly amazing and I am venturing away from Marks and Spencer’s sports bras into something a bit more Victoria’s Secret! Hell, I might even buy some new knickers to match! 

I have also signed up to a clinical trial. This won’t actually assist me in anything but will hopefully help others in the future; at least in my current position I can do something positive going forward. I continue to train in the gym and on the river and my confidence continues to bounce back. I endeavour to improve on the healthy eating plan I have in place, but continue to enjoy cream cakes, sweets and crisps with a clear conscience.

I cannot thank Mr Al-Mufti and Orla enough, also the extended medical staff and the NHS - their expertise has made this journey much easier for me to deal with, and this, in turn, has made it easier on my family, especially my daughter.

Bring on the World Masters Rowing Championships in Hungary… I feel epic!

Sarah’s story shows us that it’s possible to come out the other side, and how important it is to catch it early.

The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the chance of successful treatment – but too many of us don’t know what to look for or simply forget. Give yourself a little TLC and check out our guide to Touch, Look, Check for signs and symptoms, that will put you in control of your health.

Or why not download our handy app to help you build in regular checks to your daily routine? 

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.