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For Everyone Touched By Cancer

People's Experiences Of Breast Cancer Can Help After A Diagnosis

Written by Jane Hoggar on 
22nd February, 2020
Updated: 4th February, 2024
Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

So, if you’re reading this then you, or someone you love, probably know about the whole horror of being told you need treatment for cancer.

There’s usually no warning and you have to learn how to cope with it all as you go along. What I didn’t realise when I was told, is that there are loads of us cancer sufferers and also that there are many types of cancers, all requiring different treatments. Some are tougher than others and some are more successful than others. Everyone has their own unique journey but one thing I am sure of, is that upbeat honest tales of people’s experiences are exactly what you need at this time. Until recently cancer has all been very ‘hush hush’ which makes you feel isolated when you have this great big challenge ahead of you. It leads you to believe that there is nothing but doom and gloom ahead and this is very often not the case at all.

I didn’t know a thing about cancer treatment before I had to face it myself.

All I knew was that I would probably lose my hair for a while. I believe that it’s important to talk about your situation to the right people because getting the most accurate information possible is crucial, as is finding the right frame of mind to cope with your feelings.

When you come home from that first appointment that reveals your cancer, you want to know what is going to happen to you but this is not always easy to find out. You often have to wait two weeks for the biopsy results and the waiting is made worse by fear of the unknown. To read other people’s experiences with happy outcomes and a bit of humour and encouragement would have helped me enormously but I couldn’t find anything. I know you can google all these illnesses and treatments to find out what they entail but reading someone else’s experience of the whole process would have been much more reassuring. I could only find morbid medical accounts of ghastly situations online or from books that were, quite frankly, terrifying. I wanted to hear from a woman with the same sense of humour as me, who’d been through the same illness as me and come out the other side. I needed her to speak out and confide with me about her thoughts and anxieties, how she dealt with all the different stages of the journey. It’s a very isolating time even with loved ones all around you. Bringing worrying news to people you love makes you feel guilty, almost a worse feeling than the actual illness, so you keep a lot of thoughts and fears to yourself. 

There are many cancer patients and many types of cancer

Everyone’s treatment is different and for me I knew had to have an operation to remove the tumour.

During this surgery, the surgeon discovered that the cancer had spread to some of my lymph nodes so chemotherapy was necessary. After that I had to wait for a while before chemotherapy began and then another wait before radiotherapy

I was used to talking about breast cancer because my Granny and Mum had been through it during their more mature years. I was completely shocked however when I discovered my tumour at only forty seven. I had been carrying it for a while because it hadn’t shown up on the mammogram or ultra sound that I’d had after showing my doctor a sag on my right breast. Eventually, after I’d taken myself several times to the breast unit with my worry, it was revealed. I’d been reassured yet again that I was alright and if it hadn’t been for a wonderful radiologist at my local breast care unit, there could have been a different outcome. This lady could see I was distressed and repeated a more thorough search with the ultra sound wand, revealing a tumour very deep in my breast.

Once I was diagnosed, the treatment was fast.

I was given a lumpectomy, chemo and radiotherapy. I was so terrified that I’d convinced myself that I wanted both my breasts removed immediately.

Please! Take them both off, I don’t need them anymore,

I’d begged, sobbing as I peered out from behind my husband in the consultation room. 

The consultant was insistent that I would be safe with a lumpectomy so I had to go along with his decision after a long explanation from him about the plans. I was so numb with fear that I couldn’t take in what he was saying to me, I could just see his mouth moving around but my husband was there so hoped he would make sense of it all and explain later. 

The same happened when they told me I did not need chemotherapy.

But I want everything please.

I whimpered. 

Eventually I was offered an appointment with an oncologist who agreed that I should have chemotherapy. There are different opinions floating around in the medical world and it is important to speak to as many experts as you can. Fortunately, research has progressed so much, even since my treatment six years ago, that I think medical decisions for many types of breast cancer are delivered with better explanations, with questions answered in more detail. 

Speak to a professional if you have a cancer diagnosis

Once my treatment started I felt better because I was doing something at last that might save me instead of sitting around waiting for results.

There were so many appointments, tablets and instructions that I started a diary which I really enjoyed at the end of each day. I started adding little anecdotes as it developed and eventually set up my blog, mainly as a way of enabling family members to check in for an update without me having to speak to all of them on the phone. It had been rather tiring having to explain several times a night to each and every relative how I was feeling. It’s also exhausting reassuring people that you are alright, even if you aren’t. This goes back to the lack of information causing people to assume the worst when the word cancer is mentioned.

The blog was so therapeutic that I wrote my book, Chemo Summer. It is the book that I needed but couldn’t find when I was diagnosed and I am very pleased with it because it is informative and also raises awareness of symptoms.

If you don’t present yourself to a doctor, then they can’t help you and the sooner you go then the easier it is to be saved.

Moving on after treatment is challenging because fear of recurrence is very common. It can overwhelm you at times but I am learning how to deal with it when it descends. 

Further reading

My Life’s Most Beautiful Story: A Story Of The Most Positive Side Of My Life

Five Gifts Not To Buy A Cancer Patient: From Beanies To Spa Treatments

My Prostate Cancer Journey: the intimate details of my diagnosis, surgery, and recovery

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