Sunday, 26 October 2014

Younger women with breast cancer - Andrea's story

Today's featured story about diagnosis, treatment and being breast aware is from Andrea, aged 39. Andrea is a make up artist undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer and has created a you Tube channel called Baldy Beautiful, full of make tutorials to help us chemo baldy birds feel better about ourselves! Oh, and they are also good for non baldy ones too ;-) You can find Angela's channel here .


Andrea also has a Facebook page which you can find here . You can also follow her on Twitter  - @Baldlybeautiful.


'Straight after Christmas 2013 I decided that after being a lazy bitch for a year and letting myself go a bit - after a car accident which kinda left me a bit scared to exercise in case I hurt my back more - enough was enough and that in one years time (Jan 2015) I would be 40 and there was only one way I intended to be for my fabulous party - fit and frickin fabulous. I got straight back into an exercise and healthy eating routine and the weight dropped off and I was back to my slinky self by May/June, as well wanting to super slinky I decided i wanted hair as long as possible for my party and had successfully got it to half way down my back. I was very pleased with myself!

One morning after one of my 'Hannah Waterman DVD' workouts - which are quite tough I might add, lots of jumping jacks/burpees/pushups and planks, I jumped in the shower and was planning on taking my daughter up to oxford street to forever 21 as she was desperate to see what it was all about (all the teen bloggers she follows on youtube shop in forever 21 don't' you know!) So I'm in the shower just soaping up to wash under my arms and boobs and I felt a bone sticking out, literally it was so big it felt like a bone, I was confused, had I injured myself whilst doing all those burpees? had I broken something, I felt it again, no it wasn't a bone, what was it? a lump? but it cant be, I would have felt it before, it certainly wasn't there yesterday or the day before. Panic started to rise and I felt the tears streaming down my face under the water of the hot shower. It just couldn't be, I would check again once I was out of the shower and dry. So I dried myself off and felt again, there it was, still there. I phoned the doctors surgery straight away and burst out crying on the phone to the receptionist! She told me to calm down and that it was probably fine but I got booked in for the next morning with a female doctor. Unfortunately I couldn't go in straight away because the only female doctors in that day were locums and they didn't want me to see a locum, fair enough but the stress of having to wait a day was awful. I debated on whether to tell my husband or not and for a while I really thought I would just go on my own so as not to worry him but in the end I burst out crying and told him I had found a lump. He thought I had probably just pulled something whilst exercising considering I hadn't felt it before and I started to think he was probably right.

Next day the GP examined me and said she could feel the lump and that it was 'fully mobile' which is a good sign but said she would hate to miss anything (funny enough two nurses and a receptionist at the surgery have all recently had breast cancer) so booked me an appointment for the breast clinic at the hospital the following week. Another agonising week of waiting until the appointment.

At the hospital  I was examined by one of the breast doctors, an old American guy who looked like 'face' from the A-team! He sent me down to have an ultrasound. The ultrasound ladies told me that it was a fatty lump of tissue but to be on the safe side wanted to do a biopsy, they called a doctor in to do it who from her actions was quite reluctant and even question the ultrasound lady, this doctor assured me it was a fatty lump, told me the name of it and told me to Google it and what it meant! Meanwhile the ultrasound lady was insistent they do the biopsy just to rule anything out and so they did and off i went in pain from the biopsy but extremely hopeful that it was just a fatty lump, after all the doctor was quite sure that it was so it must be mustn't it?

Finally the 2 week 4 day wait for the results of the biopsy was over and sitting in the waiting room waiting for my turn I felt very sick. Ladies going in coming out smiling, ladies going in coming out looking shell shocked. Ladies who obviously had cancer, with wigs and scarfs on....I wanted to be anywhere but there. I turned to my husband after an hour of waiting (they were running late....all that bad news I expect) and told him I felt sick. Why? he says, whilst playing on his phone, totally oblivious to what was going on around him and that fact that the results could ever be anything other than negative.

So i get called in, sit down, doctor shuffles about with her papers......'so' she says....'your here for the results of the biopsy you had two and a bit weeks ago, and the results of the biopsy show that the lump is cancerous........and she just carried on talking and talking.............I felt my mouth open, you know in cartoons when the dogs jaw opens and hits the ground and its tongue falls out? well that's how I felt, like my tongue was hanging out of my mouth and my head was saying 'say what?' For a few seconds I couldn't look at my hubby and then I looked at him and he was looking at me with the same expression on his face and I knew this was real. All I could hear was Robodoc (that's what we later named her) going on about how great it was that I was her2 positive - what the hell? positive what? because I was going to get herceptin!!! She told me this like i had won the lottery...the next bit II
 heard was chemo....hair going to fall out....but you will get a wig...... my head was spinning, what the hell was this doctor telling me? I have breast cancer, I am her2 positive, I am having chemo, a drug called herceptin and the hair I have grown all year for my party is going to fall out??!!!! WTF?!!!!!

Next thing I know I am off to get mammograms done to recheck the lumpy breast and check the 'good' breast, 9 mammograms on the bad breast and 2 on the good breast later I am out of there and back in Robodocs office with Anna the breast care nurse. I then get told I am going for MRIs as something else has shown up in the 'bad' breast, this turned out to be 4mm DCIS and booking my appointment with the oncologist. I left there with my head spinning and piece of paper with my diagnosis which I didn't fully understand at the time and just knowing that in a week and a half I would be seeing my oncologist - I didn't even know what that was but I was guessing it was the doctor in charge of looking after me.

So off we went home, crying our eyes out at the news in disbelief that I a 39 year old mother of two aged 9 and 13 (now 14) who was super fit and healthy and just about to book a summer holiday without a care in the world looking forward to being super sexy at her 40th birthday party in January had cancer.

My poor hubby had to make the calls to my mum and dad, brother and auntie to let them know as I hadn't told them - didn't see the point -  I was told it was a fatty lump! what's the point in worrying everyone???? I had to call my two best friends as they knew something was wrong when I took time off work (boob really hurt after biopsy) as I never have time off and I didn't look ill to them so they managed to get it out of me. I had about ten missed calls and messages from each of them so had to make those calls and well, they ended up hysterical and crying and I had to tell them to calm down!

The week that followed was a blur, the family and my two besties Anna and Emma round almost every day, a lot of crying and a lot of laughing once we'd got our heads round it - still it didn't seem real and to be honest it still doesn't. I still don't believe that I have cancer, and when I catch my reflection in the mirror and see that bald head sometimes i forget and get a shock...

The few weeks that followed until chemo started were full of hospitals and tests, mri's, ct scans, oncologist appointments - who I might add is amazing and one of the leading breast cancer specialists in the country so I am very lucky to be under his care. more ultrasounds, biopsies, blood tests, picc line fitted, tour of the chemo unit.....and it just goes on...for someone that has never been in hospital other than tonsils out and giving birth twice all this hospitals and being sick malarkey was all new to me and i hated it and still do.

I am now half way through chemo and not doing too bad, I have high energy days and very low energy days, days of feeling happy and okay and days of feeling like the most miserable bitch in the whole world and days when I look at myself and think who is this alien, this bland looking person, this head, this thing that has taken over Andrea. And other days I slap my warpaint on and become Baldly Beautiful the image I have created to keep me going. When I was first diagnosed my husband said I should put my makeup skills (I am a fully qualified makeup artist) to good use and help other ladies like me going through chemo feel better about themselves, I poo pooed the idea but once treatment started I realised that he was right, I could help so many ladies and if I could help just one or two people feel good it would be worth it, so I decided to set up my own youtube channel and  do makeup tutorials for ladies going through chemo or finished chemo that were having to deal with the same beauty problems I would be and they could follow me on my journey. So far the response has been more than I could hope for especially from all the girls on the YBCN! I have received so many messages from people and not just from the UK from across the world saying how my tutorials have really helped and inspired them, which makes it so worth while, so at least while I am off work and going through the worst time of my life I know I am helping others feel good about themselves which makes me feel a tiny bit better.

At the end of the day this shit can happen to anyone, nobody is immune, nobody is too young or too old and it can happen when you least expect it. The moral of story is check your boobs, know what feels right and what doesn't, My lump seemed to appear out of nowhere, I did ask the doctors how did this happen? it wasn't there the day before or the day before that, did I strain something whilst exercising is that what made it pop out? is it because I lost weight and my boobs got smaller? They said the lump had been there a while as it was grade 2 but still caught quite early and was probably pushed to the surface when I came on and my boobs became lumpier and more tender than normal (I did come on a week after finding the lump) who knows how or why I just know that I was lucky that it did pop out from where it was hiding and I felt it and it was obviously there, had it not I probably would never have found it as I was guilty of not checking my boobs regularly at all and when I did it was just a quick what I would call 'rummage around'. At the end of the day no matter how young or old you are, check those boobies and check them regularly, it could save your life!

Oh and in case you are wondering, the 40th birthday party has been postponed to the summer when I will have a joint one with my hubby, I wont have hair half way down my back but at least I will have a bit of hair by then hopefully, be cancer free and looking and feeling fabulous. Not looking how I expected or would have wanted to look with short hair and maybe minus a boob but at least I will be here and be alive and that's all I can hope for and at this moment in time its something I can look forward to, reaching a goal in my life that I just assumed would happen, now its something I am fighting to achieve, for me, my kids, my husband and my family.'

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