Tuesday, 31 December 2019

The 'C' Word

On the 21st December 2018, we found out that my beautiful mum had Hert 2 positive breast cancer. That day changed our world completely, and made 2019 a very challenging and extremely emotional year.

I think it is important to reflect at the end of every year, looking at the highs and lows that 12 months can bring. So much can happen in a whole year, although the years seem to pass by so quickly. But the important thing is, we survive these lows and time really can be the greatest healer.

I want to start from the beginning of this journey..

Earlier that week, my mum told me she had found an indent in her left breast whilst trying on wedding dresses the previous weekend. When she told me, I didn't really assume the worst, I denied that it could be the dreaded 'C' word and convinced myself it was just something like a cyst.

After going to the GP, mum was booked in on Friday the 21st December to go to the hospital for scans and to have a sample taken for them to test. I booked the day off work because I wanted to be with my mum no matter what the outcome, but overall, we had a positive outlook on the situation and just thought "better to be safe, than sorry".

Friday came around and it was time to go for the appointment. My mum's fiance, Max, also came with us, so as a three we went off to the hospital. It took around 2 hours altogether for mum to have a mammogram, scan and finally the biopsy, the staff were so efficient and it all ran seamlessly. After all the tests, we were asked to wait in the waiting room and then we were called into the little room with the consultant. We all sat in front of the consultant and she simply said something along the lines of "We are 90% certain that you have breast cancer". She then started to explain about some of the scan results and tests, but it was all a bit of a blur if I'm honest. The biopsy results would take another week to come back so they could be 100% certain it was Breast Cancer but from looking at everything else, it was clear that it couldn't be much else.

Leaving that little room, it suddenly felt like our whole world had been turned upside down. None of us had prepared ourselves to hear that news, nothing can prepare you. You go from feeling optimistic, to analysing the "what ifs", to just feeling completely out of control that this has happened and there is nothing you can do about it.

We were comforted by the amazing team at the hospital who talked us through everything, reassured us that survival rates were high and they didn't rush us to leave. I think we all just felt completely numb, and just in complete shock that this was actually happening.

The days after we found out were so hard, I struggled to tell anyone without being a blubbering mess and not many people knew what was going on as we just wanted to get our heads around it first. Christmas and New Year were a bit of a blur, we went through the motions, kept going and tried to just carry on the best we could, not really knowing what the next year would bring. I didn't do anything for New Year, it just didn't feel like I had anything to celebrate about 2019 arriving.

I think one of the worst things about finding out someone so close to you has cancer is that you can't actually do anything to help, you can't make it better and you can't go through it for them.

2 weeks after we had the news about mum, she went for a lumpectomy operation to remove the lump. The operation was a success and myself and Max were waiting for mum when she came round. Mum's surgeon was such a lovely guy and couldn't do more to help us, he would come and check how she was, explain how everything had gone and told us that he had removed the lump with a clear margin. During this operation, mum also had a lymph node removed to be tested, to see if the Cancer had spread.

The results of the Lymph Nodes test unfortunately came back positive which meant mum would have to have a second operation to have her Lymph Nodes removed, otherwise the Cancer could spread further.

2 weeks after the operation, Mum started chemotherapy. Every 3 weeks she would have to go and have an infusion which would make her feel absolutely rubbish, but each time we kept reminding her that it was targeting the horrible cancer. My mum was absolutely incredible, every time she had an infusion, she would be poorly that day, but the days that followed she would get stronger and stronger. Mum never complained about what she was going through, she would fight the pain and would never let it stop her do anything, including carrying on working and being the best person she could be. Throughout the whole of her treatment, mum was also going through a really hard time with my grandma, who has experienced a huge number of health problems this year, to the point where we were told twice to say goodbye. Miraculously, Grandma is still here to tell the tale and now lives with mum. Even though mum was going through hell and back, she put everyone before herself and didn't ever dwell on her personal situation. I will always admire my mum for her strength and positivity this year, she really did keep us all going.

There were 6 rounds of Chemotherapy in the end, which seemed to go by quite quick but I think it's genuinely because of how well mum coped with it. One of the things I was most scared about, was mum losing her hair, because that would mean we could physically see a change in her, as opposed to it all just going on inside. It just hit home even more that this was actually happening, and a physical reminder makes it all so much more real.

Mum had the cold cap treatment during Chemo which did mean she didn't lose all the hair on her head, but it was very thin and she had some bald patches, so a wig made her feel so much more confident. As a woman it is a huge thing to lose your hair and eyelashes, but she didn't complain once and she always looked beautiful.

After Chemo was finally over, it was time for the next operation. Mum had her lymph nodes removed by the same surgeon, who did an amazing job again. As it was under her armpit, the recovery was painful as that area is very tender, but as usual, mum amazed me by taking it in her stride and carrying on.

At this point, mum had been through so much already, I just wanted it to all be over for her. The months and months of operations and Chemotherapy were so tough, it was a constant worry for all of us. When the closest person to you isn't okay, how can you possibly feel okay?

Radiotherapy started a couple of weeks after mum's second operation. This treatment was every day for 4 weeks, which was exhausting in itself. Mum had to have three little dots tattooed so they knew where to direct the radiotherapy and then she had to go to the Lingen Davies Center every day.

The 4 weeks of radiotherapy went quick as the treatment was daily, it just became a sort of routine for mum. Mum also started to have a herceptin infusion every 3 weeks which she will continue to have for 18 months. This will give her the best possible chance of the Cancer not returning.

When the radiotherapy finally came to an end, it was around July and we all went on a family holiday together. It didn't really sink in that it was actually over. Mum had been through so much and the first part of the year had been a complete blur. There had been so much worry and emotion throughout, it was really hard to just get back to normal after everything, but things are finally getting better and we are all looking forward to a fresh new year starting.

I wanted to share this story because we all want closure on this entire chapter, 2019 was not a good year, and that's okay. There were some lovely highlights, and we really have tried to make the best of this year but as a whole, I am so ready to see the back of 2019. We will all go through years that are challenging and maybe not so good, and that is how life works, we have to take the bad with the good.

I also wanted to write this post to help others, because Cancer is so common and it makes me so angry and sad how many lives it effects. I have seen so many people going through similar or worse situations and I just hope that this post can help just one person who may find some comfort in it.

If the past year has taught me anything, it's that you never know what is round the corner. Life is too damn short to do anything that doesn't make you happy. This is YOUR life, you only get given one, so decide what you enjoy, and do it more. Spend time with your family and friends, appreciate the little things, travel and see the world, fall in love, buy the handbag, just live your life how YOU want to.

I know mum has found it very hard actually telling people about her illness, it's not just something you can casually bring up in conversations. But we hope by sharing this post, it will give others the courage to discuss this subject and what really matters. Life is so precious, and should never be taken for granted.

It is an important lesson that everyone is fighting a battle that we know nothing about, so just be kind, always. Just because it isn't on social media, doesn't mean that it's not happening. Just because it is on social media, it doesn't mean it is a clear representation of real life. We are all guilty of sharing the "highlights" of life, and social media has a way of allowing people to be anyone they want to be. Share as much or as little as you like, there are no rules, but never compare your life to what you see on social media.

To conclude, I just want to say thank you to every single person who has been there for our whole family this year. Times like these really do show you who is there in times of needs. Thank you to everyone who has supported, listened, understood, been there for a hug and asked how mum was, you will never know how much it has kept us all going. We are surrounded by so many amazing people and feel so lucky to have the people around us we do.

So please, if you take just one thing from this blog post, check yourself! And if anything ever doesn't look or feel quite right, go and see your GP as soon as possible. Go to your routine check ups, and be alert to the symptoms/signs. If mum had left it any longer, it could have been a completely different ending.

Here's to 2020, which is shaping up to be an exciting year already, with mum's wedding for a start! Here's to being happy, loving hard, and appreciating everything.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this blog post! I hope you all have a lovely, happy and healthy New Year.

Becci xx

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