My name is Dawn and I was 35 years old at the time of my Diagnosis in September 2006.
My daughter Sophie (now almost 20) and my son Christopher (now 15) were aged 8 and 4 at the time. Like all mothers once given the worse possible news anyone can be given my first thought was for my children. I was determined to survive and fight to beat my cancer so I could live to see them grow up. This was paramount to me and I have achieved just that.
Don’t get me wrong the journey each of us goes on is not an easy one and every ones journey is unique to them and very different. I faced each part of my journey a step at a time and this is what got me through and worked for me. I broke it down into smaller stages rather than trying to deal with it all at once.
The first stage was to get the tumour removed . Once I knew it was a cancer I just wanted it out! I had my lumpectomy and lymph sample operation in the October of 2006. Then came the second longest two weeks of my life waiting to hear the results. (The first longest was the two weeks waiting to hear back from my initial biopsy )
When I returned to see my surgeon there was both positive news and not so positive news. Firstly there was no lymph node involvement . However they had been unable to get a clear margin around the tumour so the surgeon recommended I have a full mastectomy with a reconstruction to my left side. He wanted me to have my chemo first and then return for surgery. His advise was that radiotherapy held no guarantees and a full mastectomy was the safest option for me.
This threw me totally. I personally had hoped to save my breast and really didn’t want to lose this part of me to this terrible disease. It was part of my femininity and to me very important at the time. However life is not always about doing what you want but about what is best.
I began my chemo in the November of 2006 and to be honest I was terrified. The side effects alone are so scary and the list seemed endless. After only one dose of the eight I had my hair was no more. I had decided against a cold cap as this was not for me. I felt I had enough to deal with having the treatment and how this left me feeling without having to deal with ice cold pain during treatment. Again we are all different and this is personal choice.
I had some beautiful scarves and a great wig and I always made an effort to look my best even when I felt at my worst. I wanted my children to have their normal routine and being a mum was my number one priority. I even saw the funny side of things and laughed when I got wig tape stuck to my bald head and when my sister tried to apply false eye lashes for me. I used to joke about my wig blowing off down the road on windy days. You have to keep on smiling through as much as you are able to even in the darkest of times.
My veins collapsed and so I had a pic line inserted. This was great as it meant no more cannulas during chemo. During all this time I never once asked why me but I just knew I was not going to take this lying down. I had my moments though and at times I felt like I just wanted to give up. When faced with these times in our lives we have only two options lay down and accept defeat or come out fighting. I chose the latter.
Once chemo was finished in the May I then had to face the worse and hardest surgery I have ever had. In the June of 2007 I had a full mastectomy and reconstruction of my left breast using my back muscle and an implant. I missed my sons 5th birthday that year but he came to see me and despite my looking like something from doctor who with all the drains I had in all he wanted to tell me was it was his birthday and did I have any gifts at all with me. I had taken two into hospital with me. His little face was a picture I can still see it now.
Following this major surgery I had a few further small minor operations to add a nipple and to tattoo on an areola.The decision to have a mastectomy was the right one as when they examined the breast tissue they removed there were further pre cancer cells there which would have been a ticking time bomb if left. Yes I lost part of me but living and still being here is far more important and I know this now.
After a further year of Herceptin treatment my journey was over. It feels like only yesterday and every year on the anniversary of my diagnosis I raise a glass and am so thankful I am still here. My children have a mum and I have survived to see them both grown. No mum could be prouder of them both.
My perspective and outlook on life has altered somewhat. I now take more time for me. Selfish as this may sound I feel I have earned it. I don’t feel guilty about this anymore. I also know life is for living. Each every day is precious and I am grateful for it. I now do things I would never have even dreamt of before. Life is short and we none of us know what is round the corner and maybe that’s for the best.
I am stronger now as a person. I fought and I won. Everyone kept saying how brave I was. This was not bravery but simply pure determination. Its about staying positive and strong, allowing yourself to cry and let out your emotion whenever you need to . Not to be ashamed of asking others for support if you feel you are falling. Each persons journey is unique and their own.
I send to all women and men love and strength wherever you are on your journey. You will make it. You will get there and you will survive!!!
Thank you for reading.
Survivor Letters are letters from those living with breast cancer to those who have been newly diagnosed. I use the term “survivor” as an all-encompassing one, to include not only those who have completed treatment, but for all of us who are living with this disease. It is a dynamic community lending voices of hope, courage, compassion, and support to those whose lives have been affected by breast cancer. If you are interested in contributing, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.