Jane's Story - There is life after breast cancer

I was 41years old, married with 2 teenage sons, working as a childminder and with no family history of cancer when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. That was nearly three years ago.

It was April 18th 2002 (my 21st wedding anniversary) when I found the lump in my left breast. I was lying in bed and my hand brushed across my breast and I felt a small hard lump about the size of a marble. At that time it seemed like nothing to worry about because my friend had had a cyst not long before and I thought that mine was probably a cyst too. I went to my doctor the following week and he told me not to worry, he too seemed to think it was probably a cyst. He arranged for me to go to the breast surgeon who also said it was probably a cyst. I had a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy and then all I had to do was wait for the results. I still was not worried that it could be cancer.

It was a month since I had first discovered the lump and the day of the results had come. It is still a bit hazy but I can remember the words “its cancer” and using a box of the breast care nurse’s tissues. My husband came with me and he was a great support all the way through my treatment. I was in shock. Nobody had thought it was cancer and I wasn’t prepared for this. My first thoughts were for my children, my eldest son was due to take his GCSE’s, and for the parents of the children in my care if I had to give up work. What would they do? I spent an awful lot of time crying.

The decision to have a lumpectomy or a mastectomy was not as hard to make as I thought it might be. I wanted to get rid of the cancer so I chose a mastectomy. My husband was behind me 100%. I found myself looking in the mirror trying to imagine what I would look like with just one breast. I felt very alone. There was no one who I knew that had had breast cancer.

Exactly 5 weeks and 5 days after first finding my lump I was in hospital for my operation. This time was extremely hard because my son was starting his exams this week and I wouldn’t be at home for him. I felt angry and upset. My whole life had changed. I was going to have only one breast, I had given up work that I really enjoyed and I couldn’t see an end to it all. The operation went okay and the first thing I did when I came round was to look down at my chest. I didn’t look that bad. I got an infection in my wound, which took a while to clear up, but when it had I started chemotherapy. This was every 3 weeks for 8 sessions, which would take me through to November. Yet more crying when I thought I would loose my hair but I used the “cold cap” which did help to keep some of my hair, but it did thin quite a lot. I was lucky that the chemo didn’t make me feel too ill apart from getting very tired especially near the end of treatment. I also met up with my childminding friends every week which helped to keep things normal. One thing that I hated about chemo was the fact that I put on weight. I didn’t have any control over this and that made me feel very down. I hadn’t chosen to get breast cancer. I did find myself asking why me? My family and friends were a great help, but I did however notice that a few friends didn’t know how to approach me. I just wanted to be treated as normal. I did get asked if I was going to wear a wig when my hair started to thin but I was okay with the way I looked.

Chemotherapy finished at the end of November and I started radiotherapy at the start of December. I can remember being given the option whether to have radiotherapy but I never hesitated with the decision to have treatment. Anything that improved my chances of survival I was going to have. More tears as I was going to be away from home in Southampton for 6 weeks. Only knowing that I could fly home some weekends made it bearable. As it happens I really enjoyed my time away. Of course I missed my husband and boys but I felt like I was on holiday. The people that I was away with were very friendly and I made some good friends. The end of 2002 was not the best ever. I was having radiotherapy and my Dad died suddenly four days before Christmas. More tears. I had to rearrange some of my radiotherapy treatments so that I could be back in Guernsey for the funeral so my radiotherapy didn’t finish until the middle of January. I was very lucky that the treatment only made me slightly red because some of the ladies blistered. Radiotherapy did however leave me very tired. It was a tiredness that I had not experienced before, and the tiredness lasted for quite some time after.

I had got through 2002 but it was a year that I would sooner forget. My husband and children, family and friends helped me through. I started work again as a childminder in February 2003 but I was still getting very tired. As I said at the start it is nearly three years since I found my lump and my life is well and truly back to normal. I chose not to have reconstruction so I wear a prosthesis in my bra and nobody knows any different. I have put the cancer to the back of my mind and it is only when I have check ups that I think about it again. Breast cancer did change my life but there is life after breast cancer.

Written by Jayne Le Noury