[Patricia] When I heard those words, “you’ve got cancer”,
my stomach hit my rib cage. It was a jolting moment. But leading
up to it, I really didn’t expect that – nobody expected it. [Emma] I had a lump on my right breast,
but I didn’t think it was breast cancer. [Lyn] I noticed that there was a change in my breast, but it wasn’t a pea type thing like I thought
you were looking for when examining your breasts. It was actually a whole area that was different
in texture. [Kym] “It’s probably nothing”, but a little bell
said “Any change you notice, go see your GP”. So I was on that merry go round of thinking
“Should I be worried, shouldn’t I be worried?” [Nikki] I found the lump myself around September 2006.
I sort of poked and prodded at it for a while and didn’t really think much of it. [Sandy] I went and got it checked. They asked me
if I was worried about it, did I have any family history of it, and I said No, and carried on my merry way, kept on
having fun. Two years later the lump got so large that I had it checked again
and it came back as breast cancer. She said “Based on your ultrasound results,
I’m 99% sure you have invasive breast cancer. There’s a tumor of about 3cm with satellite tumors around it. (sigh) So I said “So you can take that lump out?” She said “No, I’m going to recommend
that you have a mastectomy”. I lost it for a few seconds at that point, that came as a bit of a shock
to think I’m going to lose my entire breast. She went on to say “and chemotherapy, possibly radiation therapy, and possibly 5 years of hormonal treatment. It was a shock. All those cliche words apply
– shock, confusion, fear. The first thing I thought was “I’m in serious trouble”. [Anne] When i was diagnosed I was a single parent with three boys.
I had lots of friends but not a lot of family help, my father had just died
and my mother is in a nursing home. [Jenny] Everyone finds it a shock I guess.
I had quite a bit of nursing background, yet I was not really prepared for cancer from that.
I had a lot of ignorance. [Michelle] Completely out of the blue because I’ve tried to be a very healthy person, always exercising all my life. [Vivienne] I felt a bit of guilt. Not shame, that’s not
the right word… I felt… sad, I felt very sad, that I was putting people I loved through stress which
maybe I wasn’t feeling quite as much as they were. You go through this incredible guilt process where you do believe you’ve done this to yourself.
I thought “I’ve done this, you know, I’ve worked too hard, I’ve had too much stress,
I’ve drunk too much, I’ve eaten too much” You start thinking
“How did you do this to yourself?” But you do seek to blame yourself.
And so, it took some time to get over that. You do start to distrust yourself and start
to lose confidence in your body, this body that’s let you down by having this
bloody thing in it that you weren’t aware of. And so I think the natural inclination for women is to
panic a bit – “get it off, get it out”. I just wanted the cancer out, gone, seeya later.
And actually, thinking a bit more about it, having a chance to talk to other women, thinking
about what was going to be important for me in my recovery, and having that time that
wasn’t complete panic all the time, is really important. For the first few weeks after my diagnosis all that surrounded me was making decisions
– what sort of treatment would I have, how would I know if it was right, what were the questions I needed to ask the doctor, what was I going to do about my kids, how was I going
to tell my parents – all that stuff. And, was I going to live?
And that’s what took my waking moments. You just turn to jelly and you’re so scared
and so anxious. You’ve got all these questions you want to ask
but you forget when you get in there, because your brain just goes to mashed potato. So, the first thing is to have your questions written out. Second thing is, take someone with you who can listen for you,
really listen and take notes. It never occurred to me that I was going to die.
I just didn’t ever accept that. I expect it was there in my subconscious
but I wouldn’t accept it. The most fundamental and important message
is that it’s not a death sentence. It’s really important to know the statistics and to know
that most women will survive. Not only survive, but it will be a blip in their lives. I’ve always considered myself a very fortunate person, and I thought “Well yeah, things will actually go very smoothly”,
which is mostly the case. [Dimity] I guess I expected it to be incredibly negative,
based on what I’d read and of course fears of cancer. But there are many positives about the journey too,
I had a great team of medical professionals, I’ve met some great people and made some really good
friends, and I’ve had lots of support. [Lee] I am very happy to get the
information from BCNA. It’s their website I go to first if I’m looking for information. You know,
if you get onto the net and just google a word there’s all sorts of goodies out there,
but it’s nice to know you can get reliable information from groups
like BCNA. They’re fantastic. The advice I would give to people is don’t be shy about telling people you’ve
been diagnosed with breast cancer. There’s support out there
and you will overcome any negativity. Be open to help, be open to people assisting you
with food, anything practical that you want to do but it’s getting more difficult,
like school runs, people having the children for sleep overs more often.
You have to be more open to that, but also a bit brave, even though you going through a lot,
put up your hands some weeks and say “I can’t do it today, or I couldn’t do it yesterday,
can you help me?” Definitely not, don’t ever think that your life’s over.
Never, ever. Go out and find that positive
out of all that grimness and sadness. You do get through it, and from that,
pull out what positives you can. There might be days where there is no positive,
everything is terrible and dreadful, but you do get through it. I used the resources that were provided to me. I read them cover to cover many times,
and then gave them to my mum and she read them. From BCNA, from other organisations. You’ll probably find you have a lot more inner strength
than you ever, ever thought you had. Draw on that and don’t be scared
to ask for help from people. Don’t be scared to let friends love you
and look after you. And more importantly, you look after yourself as well.
Because you’re the number 1.