Breast cancer, self-help and bravery
Published 26 Jul 2018
@Jellag tells us the story of her patient journey, with its ups and downs.
Even though learning about the diagnosis was hard, and telling her family and friends without crying - impossible, she found courage to undergo necessary operations and treatments.
What is the most important for her? Staying positive!
Hi my name is Jellag. I am 55yrs old. I am married, with 3 grown up children. I work part-time as a sales advisor in a retail store. I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
How were you diagnosed? How old were you? What were your symptoms?
I have had cysts in my breasts since I was 15 years old. I have had 8 removed and they were benign every time. In Feb 2017 I went for a routine mammogram and I was recalled for an ultrasound. They performed a biopsy of the lump they had found which was later diagnosed as a papilloma which is a benign wart that had to come out. I was scheduled to have this removed by surgery on 12th April. The operation went well and I went home not thinking any more about it .. two weeks later I was contacted to go to meet the consultant that was on the 28th April and it was then I was told they had found 2 tumours beside the papilloma which they had removed and I had breast cancer. I was 54. I didn’t think I had any symptoms but looking closer realised that I used to get itchy in that very spot at times.
What was your reaction to the diagnosis and that of your family and friends? Was it hard to tell them or did you tell them at all?
My daughter was with me at the time. It was hard to take it all in when I was told. I just wanted to get on with the next step. When I came out of the consultant’s room I cried. I found it hard to tell my family and friends without crying all the time. My daughter broke the news to them for me.
It was a few weeks before I could get my head around my diagnosis. We were all in shock I suppose. I had tests to see if it had spread and waiting for those results were nerve wrecking. Thank God it hadn’t. I was progesterone and estrogen positive.
Tell us about the mastectomy, how soon was it done? What did you have to do afterwards – treatments, follow up visits?
I didn’t need chemotherapy or radium. I was offered a choice of a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. I chose the mastectomy. My diagnosis was DCIS. I had the mastectomy and reconstruction on the same day. This includes a silicone implant with muscle taken from your back to make a new breast. I felt this was the right choice for me. My operation was on the 26th june. Two months after my diagnosis. I had 2 surgeons on the day. One was a plastic surgeon and the other was the breast surgeon. The operation took 5 hours approx.. I was in hospital for a week after that and had a drain in for a few weeks after coming home to drain any excess fluid. There were follow up visits for dressings every week for a few weeks until everything healed. Pain management was excellent.
Once the dressings and drain came off there was no more hospital visits and I felt alone. The breast nurse never contacted me to see how I was doing I had to ring her if I had a problem. I was on my own. No support. The plastic clinic pushed my appointment out to a year and the breast clinic 6mts.
Explain why you were put on your care plan?
I was put on Hormone Therapy because I was estrogen and progesterone positive and my cancer hasn’t spread. I was prescribed Tamoxifen and this also brings its own side effects. It brings on the symptoms of the menopause.
Are you satisfied with your care team in terms of doctor patient relationship?
The aftercare in the hospital after my operation was excellent and for the few weeks I was going back for dressings. But as soon as all that stopped, everything else stopped as well.
What did BC diagnosis change in your life and maybe in the life of your loved ones? What was its biggest impact?
I am struggling with the side effects of the menopause ie moodiness, thrush, cramps , muscle spasm, I feel tired all the time, my strength is not as good on the side I had the operation on but keeping a positive attitude helps. I’m not able to do things like I used to.
Do you consider your lifestyle to be healthy? Did you make changes to it after diagnosis?
I did not have a healthy lifestyle before my diagnosis. Since then I have joined Slimming World and I take supplements to help with the side effects of the Tamoxifen.
What helps you manage the condition better?
At present I am attending counselling in a cancer support house which I am finding very helpful. I don’t want to worry my family so it is difficult talking to them about my diagnosis or how I’m feeling but they support me in other ways. I have a strong faith and that has carried me through all of this.
What message would you like to share with other women diagnosed with breast cancer?
Take it one step at a time. Baby steps!!!! You are never again going to be the same person as you were before the diagnosis. You will be a better version of yourself as you will learn things about yourself that you never knew existed. Be kind to yourself, be selfish if you have to. Above all keep positive.
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