My hands are shaking, my heart is racing, I feel sick and I am trying to stop myself from crying. I am begging God that it hasn’t returned!
I am waiting for my annual mammogram. I have what is known as scanxiety (scan anxiety) and it is no laughing matter.
Let me take you back to July 3rd, 2013. It is a date that is etched in my memory like birthdays, anniversaries or any other important occasion. Only this day was when my world came crashing down around me. I was 33 years old, my baby was just over 6 months and I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Surely this didn’t happen to young women, right? Wrong.
Beginning of the story
I am from the UK but I live in Egypt, so I knew the importance of checking myself. A friend of mine had just had a scare after she found a lump but luckily it was a cyst. I was lying there checking, when I found a very small lump and it hurt when I pressed. I panicked because I know it shouldn’t have been there. I waited two days because sometimes women get lumps at certain times during their cycle. When it didn’t go, I told my husband, I need to see a doctor.
The doctor did not seem too concerned. He said “you are young, more than likely it is a cyst but we will do some checks to be sure.”
I had a digital sonar done (as I was under 35, this is the better way to check due to breast tissue being denser in womer under 45.) and it shown a cyst but inside the cyst was “debris” and it had to be removed. The cyst was removed and then I had to wait for the biopsy results. I didn’t feel worried, after all the doctor had said it was more than likely to be a cyst.
On July 3rd 2013, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was in shock and my first reaction was like.. this was going to kill me! I am a young mother, I live away from my family and I have been diagnosed with breast cancer! I was a complete mess. I even started giving my husband instructions of what to do if it did kill me.
Going back to the doctor to understand the diagnosis in more detail, he explained it was a cyst, inside the cyst was cancerous cells that had not yet gone out of the cysts but it had to be removed as soon as possible and I also had to have my lymph nodes removed to make sure it had not spread to them.
9th July 2013, I had a lumpectomy and three lymph nodes removed. They removed the part of my breast where the cyst had been and they tested the lymph nodes for spread.
On coming round from the operation, I was informed that I was cancer free and there had been no spread to the lymph nodes. However, they had to test the tissue to see what kind of breast cancer it was. You see, breast cancer is not a singular disease. There are many forms and depending on what type you have depends on what treatment you have.
A week after my surgery, the doctor told me I would have to have an intense course of chemotherapy plus radiotherapy because my breast cancer was an aggressive type and due to my young age, we could not take chances. They were going to throw the book at it. In other words, I would take the maximum treatment that was available. This meant 5 and a half months of chemotherapy followed by 25 rounds of radiotherapy.
It was a difficult journey to go
My veins took a battering and collapsed due to the chemo being injected. By the last couple of sessions, they were struggling to find a vein to insert the chemo. There were lots of lows. I feared death. I feared leaving my little girl without a mother but I knew I had to fight for her.I entered the hardest part of my life. I lost my hair, I had scars, I lost my energy due to the treatment, I lost my taste, I had to be so careful in case I got a cold or ill. I had to have routine blood checks to make sure I was fit for chemo.
I knew I had to be strong. I knew I had to hold it together because I was a mother first and foremost. I had to take care of her, which I did day in, day out. She kept me going through-out the whole ordeal. I had a lot of support from my family and friends as well as my husband. Of course it was very difficult being so far from my own family and it was very difficult for them. But we got through it together.
I kept a journal and photos to highlight my journey. It is something that should not be taboo. Women die from breast cancer daily. Awareness is still needed and research is still needed to get a cure so that women can stop dying of breast cancer. Not just women but men also. It is rare, but men do get breast cancer.
I researched as much as I could about the disease. I made sure I was armed with knowledge about the very thing that invaded my body. I found a support group, where other young women had been diagnosed with breast cancer. We offered advice, support, encouragement and heartbreak when one of our members died from it.
I am blessed. I found my lump early. The cancer had not even spread to the tissue but it is not like that for everyone. The importance of checking your breasts is vital, no matter what age you are. Breast cancer does not discriminate. It doesn’t just develop in women over 50. It doesn’t just develop in women. The sad fact is, early detection is still the only protection a woman has to fight the disease. This is why self-examination is essential. All women should do it.
My mammogram came back clear. I am two years clear now, Alhamdulillah. But I still live with the niggly fear of it returning, all of us fighters do. Breast cancer does not ever go away. I face a lifetime of yearly mammograms and doctors’ appointments to make sure that I am doing fine and that it hasn’t spread. It still can spread.
My life changed on 3rd July 2013. I never asked why me? I think why not me? This diagnosis and fear rocked my faith to the core but each time I pass a hard part of my life I thank God. He gave me a second chance at life. He gave me precious time with my daughter.
Having breast cancer has taught me to appreciate the small things in life. It has taught me to not get myself into stressful situations where I can help it. It has taught me to do the things I have always wanted to do for me and my family. It has taught me to be less tolerant of people who do not deserve my time and love dearly those that do. Most of all it taught me to appreciate life and be happy.
I am now passionate about spreading awareness to people and raising money for cancer charities. So far I have risen close to £1000 for cancer charities and I have set up my awareness page to raise awareness of breast cancer. If I can change just one woman’s attitude on checking her breasts on a monthly basis, then I have done what I have set out to do.
My message is, when you notice anything different about your breasts, you should see a doctor immediately. It doesn’t matter how old you are or whether you are a man. We need to be clear, breast cancer still kills far too many women and until there is a cure, early detection is the only protection.
First published: October 2015