Statistics tell us that one in eight women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis during their lifetime and regrettably for one member of the Against Breast Cancer fundraising team in May 2018 our colleague Allie became that ‘one’.
For the past 6 years Allie has given support and advice to fundraisers of all ages and backgrounds right across the country. She has used her experience and wisdom (and no small amount of wit) to help hundreds of people to reach their personal goals.
Now, that same encouragement and the benefit of others knowledge is being passed back to her by many of these same fundraisers as they learn of her diagnosis. Allie has unexpectedly found herself in a unique position of receiving comfort, support and reassurance from others who have been through or are going through, or know people with the experience of similar diagnoses.
This has motivated her to support and inform people in a similar position to herself by providing them with a unique opportunity to follow her thoughts and her feelings, from diagnosis, through treatment and beyond.
Follow Allie’s journey as she tells it in her own words.
18th April 2018
So, I turned 50 in June 2017 and had a party to end all parties with my many friends and family not even I can remember!! Along with turning 50 women are encouraged to have regular mammogram screenings every 3 years.
I had my invitation to my first planned screening and had to attend on 18th April 2018 which I duly went along to and thought no more about it. It was a bit uncomfortable, but by no means painful. 20 minutes out of my hectic schedule.
Over the past 20 or so years, I have suffered with cystic breasts which needed to be aspirated, so when I was recalled the following week, I thought not a biggie, I have another cyst which will need to be drained.
26th April 2018
On my arrival at the breast clinic at the Churchill Hospital, I was whisked away to have a repeat mammogram, and this was followed up by seeing a Doctor who did an ultrasound. I asked her if I had another cyst and she said no but mentioned the phrase ‘DCIS’ (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ). Even though I work for the charity and knew what this was, I had to ask what it meant so I could be clear in my head. The consultant told me I would need a biopsy and I said to her ‘so you will write to me with an appointment’ to which she replied that no, it would be immediately after the ultrasound.
I was taken into another room and had 12 biopsies taken and a titanium clip inserted to show where the biopsies were taken from in the breast for future reference. Still at this point, I thought it would all be okay.
I had gone to this appointment by myself as I thought I just had a cyst. I told my husband Thom that it would be okay – they would drain the cyst and I would be back at work within the hour so there was no point coming with me.
4 hours later I was allowed home.
4th May 2018
My results were ready on 4th May (Star Wars Day!). My husband and I sat in the waiting room chatting away. When we were called in, I saw the same Doctor as the week before along with a support nurse who was amazing and stayed with me the whole time during my previous visit.
They gave me the devastating news that I had breast cancer, confirming that is was DCIS and also another malignant tumour. Both my husband and I cried and hugged each other and to be honest the rest of what the doctor told me didn’t really sink in.
I couldn’t wait to get out of that room. We went to get a coffee before going back to see the Breast Cancer Specialist Nurse who then explained the operation again and gave us lots of literature to go through. She also booked us an appointment to see the Surgical Oncologist on Monday 14th May.
This was moving so quickly (which to be honest is a good thing).
I had to go home to see my elderly mum and my brother and had to call my daughter who was abroad. She knew I was getting my results and if I hadn’t called her she would have known something wasn’t right. We told my step children the following week.
Telling the people that I loved was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.
14th May 2018
On the appointment with the Surgical Oncologist and again a Breast Cancer Specialist Nurse, they went through my results again just to make sure we understood what was going on. She then went through the type of operation I would be having and then explained the further treatment.
My operation is booked in for June 12th and will be followed by radiotherapy and Tamoxifen, or the equivalent for 5 to 10 years.
I will be having a Therapeutic Mammoplasty (also known as a lollipop scar mammoplasty) alongside a Sentinel Lobe biopsy to see if the other tumour has spread. This will then determine whether chemotherapy will be necessary.
If I am being honest, all this has still not sunk in and I don’t think it will until I have my surgery. I had no symptoms of breast cancer, I don’t feel unwell and have always checked myself, but DCIS is not a lump and you can’t feel it and the other tumour is so deep in the breast, I wouldn’t have known it was there.
16th May 2018
A couple of weeks after my diagnosis and whilst chatting, my husband said, ‘there are so many friends and family that you haven’t yet told, how are you going to do that?’ After some thought I decided to do a funny Facebook post which I’ve included below.
Now you must understand that both my husband and I have a very wry sense of humour, it is the only way we can get through this.
On a positive an upside of having breast cancer (sorry I couldn’t get around to telling everyone personally) is that my wonderful hubbie has said after years of begging we can have some outdoor flashing reindeer this Christmas!!!!
Having got it out there, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted and that night I slept properly for the first night since my diagnosis. I had even got some sleeping tablets from my GP, but to date I still haven’t taken any. I don’t want to become reliant.
More to follow…