Thursday, 23 October 2014

Younger Women with breast cancer - Laura's story

Today's featured story is from Laura, aged 32:

'It was smack bang between Christmas and New Year 2013 when I started getting a dull ache in my right boob; it wasn't constant or overly painful, just annoying! But everyone gets aches and pains every now and then don't they?! I had a quick feel and couldn't feel anything sinister so just got on with things.

But the ache gradually got more frequent and intense and just two weeks later, where I had initially felt nothing, a small pea had appeared. These things come and go though I thought, must be my time of the month. Two weeks later I noticed that a lot of prominent veins had appeared on my breast in the same area; I had a feel again and what was a pea had now grown to the size of a grape.....

Now if you google breast lumps, I would say that maybe 90% of websites state that cancerous lumps are NOT painful, and that if your lump is painful, it is likely to be a cyst or a fibroadenoma (a benign lump) - nothing to worry about then maybe I thought? I'm 31 so it's not likely to be cancer now is it! I booked an appointment with my Doctor though just in case.

On the day of my appointment, the Doctor confirmed that she too could feel a lump; but she also believed that as it was painful and as I was so young, it was not likely to be anything sinister. Either way she referred me straight to my local Breast Care Clinic so I could be checked out thoroughly. My referral letter came through and I had an appointment at the clinic exactly two weeks later. In those two weeks, what had felt like a grape, now felt like a grape with a pea next to it......

I'm lucky enough to have a 'One Stop Shop' Breast Care Clinic in my area, which basically means that they do all the tests in one place, on one day. I first saw a consultant who confirmed the presence of two lumps and referred me for an ultrasound. The radiologist again confirmed the presence of two lumps and noted a swollen lymph node in my armpit. Two core biopsies and one fine needle aspiration later, I was free to go and asked to return a week later.

I won't deny, the wait was pretty torturous! But I also somehow knew what the answer was going to be and was therefore able to prepare myself. When the day finally arrived and the diagnosis was confirmed, I was basically ready to 'take it on the chin' and just get on with it! You see, despite all this, I am an eternal optimist and pretty stubborn! This was not going to stop me!

My Diagnosis? A grade 3 (fast growing) Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (the grape) next to a benign fibroadenoma (the new pea) but luckily no lymph node involvement.

Through all my subsequent treatments (which has included a lumpectomy, removal of two lymph nodes, 6 cycles of chemotherapy, and finally a double mastectomy with reconstruction as a result of a BRCA1 gene fault diagnosis) I have continued to work, dated, been to gigs, had great times with friends and met some pretty inspiring people along the way. Cancer does not have to be a death sentence, nor does it mean you have to put your life on hold! What is important is to ensure you get to know your body, be breast aware and never assume! Although I caught mine early, I could have caught it even earlier if I hadn't have been so dismissive of my body telling me things!'

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