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Iceni Magazine | December 2, 2020

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Susan’s Breast Cancer Story

Susan’s Breast Cancer Story

In May 2017, I made an appointment at the Dr’s after finding a lump in my left breast.

I wasn’t overly worried as I have had lumps many times before and they turned out to be nothing, but it’s always best to get it checked.

The Dr wasn’t sure so decided to refer me to the hospital and just over a week later, I had an appointment to see the Dr at the NNUH.

The Dr was concerned as my breast was dimpled; it looked like it was being pulled from the inside, so he made me an appointment for a mammogram and an ultrasound for the following week on 1st June.

During the ultrasound, the nurse kept looking at the screen and taking measurements and looked worried. I said to her, “Is everything ok?” and she looked at me and said “I’m worried that it is cancer.” I burst into tears and replied, “It can’t be; I have 2 children!” She held my hand and said, “I’m so sorry” I feared the worst. “What if I die? I can’t leave my boys!” My head was spinning, and I was an emotional wreck. I then had to have a biopsy and afterwards, I went into a room to talk to the Dr and a nurse about what would happen next. I wasn’t really listening to them as my mind was thinking all sorts. Luckily, I had my sister in law with me and she remembered everything they said.

A week later, I got my results of my biopsy which confirmed I had stage 2 Breast Cancer which was hormonal due to me having too much estrogen in my body. The Dr said I would need to have a mastectomy, 6 rounds of chemo, 15 sessions of radiotherapy and Herceptin injections for a year! I was devastated.

Just after I shaved all my hair off

I was upset at the thought of losing my breast but decided against a reconstruction as the Dr said it could interfere with my treatment and I just wanted the cancer out of my body.

I had my operation on Monday 3rd July. I had the whole breast removed and 5 lymph nodes taken at the same time. The results revealed that cancer had spread to one node, so I had to have another operation on 7th August to remove a further 19 nodes, but thankfully they came back all clear. I recovered well from my operations and my scars healed well too.

I started my chemo on Monday 18th September, which all went well but a few hours later, I started to get very shaky, hot and clammy and feeling unwell. Then I was sick constantly for around five hours. I felt totally drained, so took some more anti-sickness tablets and went to bed.

Two weeks later, my hair started to fall out. This made me feel quite down as my hair was my favourite part of me, but when it came out in big clumps a week later, I asked my sister in law to shave it all off which felt better than I thought it would. I also had a great wig from the Big C centre, which made me feel more confident.

Me wearing my wig I’d been to a ‘look good feel better’ make up day at the Big C Centre.

As well as having chemo every three weeks, I was having Herceptin injections which were extremely painful. The chemo made me have a very sore mouth, and I had lots of ulcers on my gums and tongue. My mouth tasted of metal; everything tasted horrible and it was hard to eat sometimes. To help my gums as well as mouthwash, I was advised to freeze grapes and suck them whilst having chemo, but they tasted disgusting and it put me off grapes completely. Just looking at a grape made me feel sick.

In the run up to Christmas during my last two chemo sessions, I got very run down and ended up with viral infections and had to stay in hospital for a few days each time to recover.

I started radiotherapy on 1st February 2018, every evening for three weeks, which was much easier to deal with. I then started taking Tamoxifen tablets every day for 10 years and my injections carried on until October. Once they had finished, my oncologist gave me the all-clear and told me to celebrate!

It’s now October 2020 and I have to have Zoladex injections every four weeks for three years to stop my body producing estrogen, but it’s a small price to pay as it’s working. I used to worry constantly about cancer returning, but over time, I worry much less, and I have a mammogram every year which is very reassuring.

Having cancer has definitely changed me. I felt like I lost my identity and I’m only now feeling like the old me, but it has also taught me to live life to the full and appreciate everything I have.

Please remember to check yourselves regularly early detection saves lives, it saved mine.


 

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