What cancer were you diagnosed with? Breast cancer
At what age were you diagnosed? 33
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2014, aged 33. It came as a shock, but it wasn't a surprise. It was only a few months earlier that I'd gone through genetic testing to check for a fault in my BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, because of my family history of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. I had a negative test result and although I was still considered high risk, it was assumed that it was probably a BRCA fault that caused the cancers in my family, but that I personally had not inherited a faulty gene. The breast cancer diagnosis that followed suggested otherwise, and after further testing, I now know I have a significant alteration in a gene called PALB2. The way I see it - knowledge is power. Now I know I have a faulty gene that puts me at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer, I can have surgery to significantly reduce the risk of it happening again.
My breast cancer was grade 2, estrogen receptor positive. Between August and December 2014 I underwent 6 cycles of FEC-T chemotherapy. I can honestly say that was the hardest thing I've ever gone through in my life - but I did it, I got through it. In January I had surgery - a skin sparing mastectomy with LD Flap and implant reconstruction, as well as a full node clearance. 2/10 of the lymph nodes removed contained cancer. And finally in March/April 2015 I had 3 weeks of radiotherapy. I'm now finished with active cancer treatment (providing the cancer doesn't return) but I'll be on Tamoxifen for 5-10 years. I'll also be having further surgery this year to reduce the risk of getting cancer again.
There are 5 things that got me through cancer treatment in one piece and helped me to Thrive:
- First class treatment and care from the NHS
- Incredible support from wonderful friends
- Incredible support from other members of the Younger Breast Cancer Network
- Offloading at counselling (at a local cancer support charity called Coping with Cancer in Leicester)
- Offloading in writing on my blog - so cathartic!
Towards the end of my cancer treatment I set up a Young Women's Breast Cancer blog - a platform for any young woman with breast cancer to share writing about any aspect or impact of diagnosis, treatment or life after breast cancer treatment. Young women who don't want to set up their own blog can use it to share one off or occasional pieces of writing, and those with a blog can use it to share pieces that they prefer to remain anonymous.