There’s nothing more exciting then meeting someone new, packing up your life and moving to be closer to them.
This was my life a year ago. I was a few years into an exciting relationship and things were progressing well. While I wasn’t loving my job at the time, everything else felt as though it was moving along beautifully – I was exercising regularly, eating well, completely in love and doing what most women my age do – enjoying life.
That was, until I was showering one morning and discovered a little lump on my left breast. It hurt to touch, but as I’d just gone off the contraceptive pill, I didn’t think much of it – it was surely a hormonal response to the changes in my body.
But the pain didn’t subside, and when I started to struggle to sleep on that side due to the pain radiating from my breast, both my best friend and my partner managed to convince me that it was probably time to get it checked.
While the GP didn’t seem overly concerned, given my age and lack of family breast cancer history, she ordered a biopsy and sent me on my way. I continued to tell myself it couldn’t be anything, and everything we were doing was just precautionary.
Just a few short days later, I received a call while at work asking me to come and see my GP that day. As I was working over an hour away I asked if we could push the appointment back, it was when they said it would be better if I came in that I knew that this little lump was going to be a big problem, and the worry set in.
I was diagnosed with an aggressive HR positive stage two breast cancer.
I was in complete shock. How could this be happening? I felt as though my entire life was over, when just a few weeks before, it felt as though it was just the beginning.
Within a week I saw a breast specialist and we organised a lumpectomy. Before starting treatment, I underwent egg harvesting to protect my future fertility, then immediately began six months of chemotherapy followed by another six weeks of radiation.
It was during this time that my hair began to fall out. And perhaps this has been one of the hardest things to accept. What we believe is a defining part of our femininity, our hair, was no longer a defining feature of mine, cancer had stripped me of everything, and I struggled to face the mirror.
While the cancer has gone, and my treatments have finished, I do occasionally struggle with my appearance, conscious that I don’t look like I used to but hopeful with each day, that soon my hair will return, and this journey will be nothing but a memory.
Despite the long road it’s been to return to good health and my sense of self, I’ve had the chance to learn a lot about myself along the way; that being happy with yourself – hair or no hair – is the most important thing, because you only have one chance and one body.
Cancer has taught me not to be careless with your health, to take your body’s signs and get them checked, and remember, perhaps most importantly, that you are stronger than you will ever give yourself credit for.