Introducing Becky who is working hard to raise awareness amongst young women of the symptoms of breast cancer

The lovely Beckie (@frombreastcancer_tonewnormal)

We have a weekend treat for you today: a brand new blog! Today’s guest blogger is the lovely Beckie. Beckie was diagnosed in 2019 when she was 26 years old. Beckie has written very openly for us today about her experiences from diagnosis, through chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy. Beckie is now using social media to tell her story and raise awareness of the symptoms of breast cancer amongst young women. You can find Beckie on Instagram @frombreastcancer_tonewnormal.

Here’s Beckie’s story:-

“My name is Beckie and this is my personal experience of going through breast cancer at young age.

In December 2018 I was with my new boyfriend and he found a lump in my right boob. He wanted me to get it checked by my GP but I wasn’t worried; I was on a birth control pill so I reassured him. I said, “Babe it’ll just be from the pill, as they can make your boobs change like they change when I’m on my monthly”.

Weeks went by I was starting my new job as Christmas Sales Assistant. I noticed yellow discharge coming out of my right nipple. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get in to see my doctor because it was Christmas season and everything was so busy.

So then 2019 came round. It was January and I was worried. I decided to ring my local GP but I couldn’t get through. I decided to take matters into my own hands and took the bus to the Walk in Centre. I remember filling in paperwork about what symptoms I was having and then I got called in to see a nurse. She asked me lots of questions: was I pregnant? When was my last period? Was there any family history of breast cancer?

I told her I wasn’t pregnant and I was due to start my period shortly. And I did have a family history of breast cancer. My Nan had had breast cancer but we weren’t aware of any genetic mutations or hereditary factors in my family.

Then the nurse asked me to walk to the bed. She drew the curtains so I could take my top off and bra and she examined me from my left breast asking if it felt normal to me and it did! She then moved to the right of my chest and she could feel the lump and then she could see my nipple leaking. Then she got me to sit up so she could feel my armpit to feel for any swallow lymphatic nodes and lumps. She asked for me to get dressed and sit back on the chair next to her desk. She told me that she would speak to my GP urgently as she was concerned that it was something sinister.

I received an appointment to be seen at the Breast Unit at Birmingham Women’s Hospital at the end of January.

I had another examination at the Breast Unit, similar to the examination the nurse had carried out at the Walk in Centre. I also had a mammogram, ultrasound and needle core biopsy to collect samples to see what was going on.

After all the tests, the doctors told me that whatever it was, it needed to come out! This made me think of all sorts – my mind was all over the place.

I received the results of all the investigations in February. The news was devastating; at just 26 years old I had Triple Negative Breast Cancer at grade 3 and stage 2. My doctors told me that this type of cancer isn’t fed on hormones. They said that sometimes this cancer is related to gene mutations, like BRCA1 and 2 and PALB2 so the  specialist and my breast  cancer nurse wanted me to have some genetic testing due to my young age. I received the results of the genetic testing later in the year – they all came back negative.

My doctors they said the cancer was treatable and curable as I caught it in time to have chemotherapy, surgery and then radiotherapy. The first step was to have chemotherapy to shrink the size of the tumour.

I was also asked if I wanted to take part on a trial looking at selecting chemotherapy before surgery. (The ROSCO trial). I wanted to help with the research.

Lots of hospital letters started to arrive. In mid-March 2019 I started my chemotherapy. I had 1 cycle with 5 sessions for every 3 weeks. My last chemo was in May 2019.

My surgery took place on 14th June 2019. I had a single mastectomy without reconstruction. Some people have asked me why I didn’t want to have reconstruction. For me, I felt “what’s the point?” I was worried it might come back and they wouldn’t be able to see it until too late.

I didn’t mind being flat one sided – I’ve still got my left boob! I feel that boobs don’t define you as a person.

When I had the surgery, I also had 5 lymph nodes out to see if the cancer had spread. I received the results in July and fortunately all 5 lymph nodes were clear. No cancer cells! It was a major relief as I hadn’t had a full body scan when I was diagnosed. I also found out that I had had a complete pathological response to chemotherapy – I didn’t need a second cycle!

Then I started my last ever treatment which was radiotherapy. I had 15 sessions in total and my last session was in September 2019.

Now, in 2020, I can’t believe the journey I went through last year. I can’t believe I’m still free from cancer. I’m due to have my first ever mammogram following my diagnosis and I’m looking forward to celebrating the “all clear” after that!

My mission now is to share my story to help to raise awareness in young women and men of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

I hope you all enjoy reading my journey, feel free to add me on my Instagram!”

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us today, Beckie. You’re doing amazing work in sharing your experiences and raising awareness of the symptoms to watch for.

Meet Joanne who writes about cancer in a time of coronavirus

The wonderful Joanne (@reallyratherannoying)

We have another amazing guest blogger today. We’re honoured to introduce Joanne. Joanne documents her experiences living with secondary breast cancer on Instagram. You can find her at @reallyratherannoying.

Like so many in the cancer community, Joanne has spent much of this year shielding and she has documented her feelings throughout – on the good days and the bad.

Joanne has written a wonderful blog for us today in which she explains what it is like living with cancer in a time of coronavirus and what that has meant for her.

We hope you find Joanne’s blog as powerful as we did. We know that this year has been very difficult for so many but Joanne has so beautifully expressed the fear and uncertainty of so many brave people in this cancer community. Here’s what Joanne has written:

“I swear a lot these days. I didn’t used to but now all the time in my head and too often in my speech.  I grew up in a house where no one swore, the first time I said sh*t I was ten, I didn’t know what it meant I’d heard someone at school say it so I thought I’d try it out. My mum was horrified, I cried, I never swore again until just recently. I blame cancer……and coronavirus.

I’ve had cancer for three years, well probably longer but undetected. Secondary or metastatic breast cancer, that’s were the cancer has spread from the breast to other parts of the body. Mine is in my bones and stomach lining. Because of the nature of my cancer I’m able to take a reasonably new drug called Palbociclib. I’m lucky it’s worked for three years with relatively few side effects and I’ve led a relatively normal life. I’ve seen my two children graduate and hopefully next year my step daughter, I’ve got married, travelled to Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. I’d probably have been to the USA too if they didn’t have that overly weird president. Life was, well not great let’s face it who wants uncurable cancer but it was as good as I could make it.

Then something happened in China that turned mine and, too be fair, the whole worlds’ lives upside down.  Coronavirus, Covid-19, call it what you will it’s a damn nuisance.

In April as the whole country was in lockdown I sat by the phone nervously waiting for the results of my latest CT scan. Would the cancer still be stable? I’d already outsmarted the average time on Palbociclib so every three months the wait for results became increasingly anxious.

The call came in, still stable BUT….It was a big but, the breast team, having reviewed my medication and general health in the wake of the global pandemic, decided that I should take a three month break from the medication. They had weighed up the odds and given my propensity to low white blood cells agreed that the risk of my cancer growing was less then the risk of my catching and recovering from coronavirus. I was devastated and extremely nervous, feeling I was being asked to put my three years of stability and hope at risk but what could I do?

Reluctantly I agreed, treatment was paused and I started on a new regime of taking Letrozole, my other cancer drug, alone and just hoping I would stay safe. Two weeks later my worst fears were realised as I started to get severe pains in my right hip and pelvis. Over the next couple of days the pains became increasingly bad, I could no longer sit comfortably or indeed walk.

I rang the Christie hotline and minutes later was taken by ambulance to my local A&E, not exactly were you would choose to go in a global pandemic with a compromised immune system. I was admitted onto a ward for investigation without a coronavirus test, that didn’t seem right but when I queried it I was told by the ward nurses if I didn’t get one in A&E they wouldn’t be giving me one – WOW. I just hoped no one else on the ward had it.

For two days I had scans and X-rays , checking for spinal compression or broken bones but nothing appeared out of the ordinary, apart from the pain which was managed to a reasonable level by my old friend morphine. With no visitors allowed the only possibility of banter was with the nurses, too busy chatting about tik tok, the patients, too old to hear me or the people delivering the food, who claimed tuna bake was suitable for vegetarians. Thank goodness I’d had the foresight to pack my kindle and phone charger!

The tests revealed nothing untoward so I was released back home with a bottle of morphine and absolutely no idea where that pain had come from.

For days nothing changed still sore, couldn’t walk properly, couldn’t sleep and the morphine made me so miserable I was swapped onto a synthetic alternative.

I madly researched what it could be. Then I read stories of ladies having terrible joint pain on Letrozole, could this be the cause of my issue? Was the Palbociclib masking these unwanted side effects?

Turns out there are a number of different brands of Letrozole, ranging from the current ones I was taking at £2 a packet to the crème de la crème at £90.

My wonderful GP listened to my reasoning and agreed to prescribe the crème de la crème and the results were surprising, over the next few days the pain subsided walking became easier, all be it at first with a stick and I started to sleep.

I had another CT scan and waited anxiously for the results, hoping for the best but fearing the worst. The results came via phone call, I was still stable, I could barely believe it and better still could start back on my Palbociclib and even better I could slowly come out of shielding and start to meet with friends and family I’d not seen for four months.

Life was great for sixteen hours. Then my daughter texted me, the virus cases in Greater Manchester were rising to a dangerous level we were being told to stop socialising in our homes and even our gardens. What the hell? I’d not even got to that yet, the news was devastating, hopes of slow return to the “new normal” dashed. You could not make this year up!

But as I sit here today on a chilly bank holiday weekend we have been released from these extra restrictions and by Wednesday will able to have friends round again albeit under the social distance rules. I’ve survived those horrible three months, but who knows at what long term cost to my health? Many who’s cancer treatment was paused or diagnosis delayed face an uncertain future, many cancer patients will die needlessly as a result of the restrictions of the pandemic. As we all move towards our new normal let’s not forget those who have suffered and continue to do so.

Follow me on Instagram @reallyratherannoying because let’s face it that’s what life with cancer is.”

Thank you, Joanne, for sharing your story and explaining the far reaching impact of coronavirus on so very many lives.

Meet Lucy as she writes about motherhood and breast cancer

The gorgeous Lucy (@loobyloulu)

Today we are delighted to share the third in our series of guest blogs. Please meet the lovely Lucy. Lucy has written a wonderful blog for us today explaining her experience following a single mastectomy and writes about how she has navigated explaining her treatment and surgery to her young daughter. You can find Lucy on Instagram @loobyloulu.

Lucy is an absolute hero in our eyes; she had a mastectomy at the beginning of 2020 and we can’t imagine what it has been like going through recovery while in lockdown. Lucy, you are amazing.

Here’s Lucy’s story in her own words:

“I’m Lucy, a single mum to a beautiful little monster called Millie. I love dancing, wine and fancy dress! They are the perfect combination in the right order!

In January 2020 I was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 32. 

My initial thought was “I want a mastectomy straight away”. I felt like my body had failed me and I wanted the breast removed ASAP.

The operation went smoothly and as well as a single mastectomy I had a full auxiliary clearance on my right arm. Waking up with a drain and little to no arm movement was strange but you soon learn how to adapt.

The drain is exactly that, an absolute drain!! I had couple of issues with it, mainly because I got the tube caught on a door handle and so loosened it slightly….but a couple of dressing changes and it was good. The liberation and freedom you get and feel once it’s removed is joyous! I literally skipped out of the ward!

One of the most important things for me was to show my daughter Millie my scar straight away as I didn’t want her to be scared or worried about my chest. Five months and she’s just accepted it as the norm which for me is brilliant. 

I was offered reconstruction surgery at the time of my masectomy but chose not to have it. I still have quite a lot of numbness across my chest and arm, especially in my armpit area. Gone are the razors in favour of hair remover cream!

I’m now at the stage of wanting to wear a bra again and I have to admit, it’s incredibly difficult to find any ‘nice’ post surgery bras, especially if you have small breasts. 

For anyone who is facing the same surgery as I had, I agree it’s a really scary time but you will get through it.  My biggest tip for auxiliary clearance – do your exercises! They are boring and sometimes a little bit painful but they work!”

Thank you so much for sharing your story, Lucy. It means the world to us here at Valiant Lingerie that we are able to share stories from amazing women like you!