Every year 50,000 of our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends will be newly diagnosed with breast cancer. And every year 12,000 women still die. Breast Cancer Campaign would love to have you involved in the UK’s biggest breast cancer fundraiser to help raise awareness and funds so that more women […]
Posted by Family Affairs on 14-05-2012 in BLOG tagged with 16 miles / blisters / breakthrough / Breast Cancer / Gloria Hunniford / Pink Power Walk
Well, apart from nursing a sore arse and a few blisters this morning it was more than worth it to walk the pink walk again yesterday to raise money for breast cancer research. The weather couldn’t have been better and I just love the route – mostly along the river – spectacular. We did the 16 miles in exactly four hours.
Thank you so much to all those who sponsored us so far – we’ve raised over £1,000 already so I’m very pleased. Hopefully they will reach their target of £1 million this year.
I was about to add a photo of my blisters and another my friend sent me of her bruised-soon-to-fall- off-toenail, but I suspect you might be sick. So I won’t.
Posted by Family Affairs on 11-05-2012 in BLOG tagged with Breast Cancer / CHARITY / pink power walk 2012 / surgery
It’s nearly here!! I’m not ready. I haven’t prepared. Done NO training this year. Never mind. I’ll get through it. As always. Buoyed up by the vast swell of pink (mostly) women to raise money for breast cancer research in two charities:- Breakthrough and The Caron Keating Foundation. Hopefully this […]
Posted by Family Affairs on 02-05-2012 in BLOG tagged with breakthrough / Breast Cancer / British / CHARITY / FASHION / Fashion targets breast cancer / FTBC Posted by Family Affairs on 02-02-2012 in BLOG tagged with Breast Cancer / DCIS / Ductal Carcinoma in Situ / Marsden / mastectomy
I asked my friend to write a guest post for me about her breast cancer experience. It really is quite an extraordinary story when you think that it was just 18 months ago that we were talking about whether she should go and see a Doctor about her initial concerns. She dealt with every step of her journey with incredible bravery and humour. Some of her wonderfully frank account of what happened to her is quite shocking in a way, but she merely dealt with each and every phase and moved on. She now has fading scars and a fabulous new, very realistic looking breast (and essentially a tummy tuck at the same time which she was very excited about). I am quite sure that her story will be immensely helpful to anyone else who has been diagnosed with a similar type of breast cancer. Any questions let me know – I’m sure she’d be delighted to answer them:-
I am 42 years old and the mother of four daughters who are 15, 14, 12 and 4. In June 2010 I was probably fitter than I had ever been as I had been training for a marathon. I can remember thinking how well I felt then which is fairly ironic looking back. One evening as I took off my bra I noticed a tiny, dark brown spot in the bra cup, I honestly didn’t think much of it and assumed I may have dropped a little bit of my favourite Green and Black’s chocolate down my front as I am such a clumsy eater! The next day I wore a different bra but noticed it again and then the next day and the next. It became obvious that my nipple had some sort of discharge and so I booked a Doctor’s appointment, at that time it never even crossed my mind that it might be particularly sinister.
The Doctor thought it was probably nothing but I was referred to my local breast clinic at Kingston hospital. My friend Lucy came with me and the first thing I noticed was that the clinic was absolutely full to bursting. I waited for ages to be seen and then when I finally was the Doctor was charming, reassuring and very calm. He sent off a sample of the nipple discharge and said I should return a week later. When I went back the following week he said that there were some abnormal cells in the discharge but he wanted to do a biopsy of the nipple duct and thought that by removing the duct there would be no further problem.
I was seen very quickly and efficiently – almost on a weekly basis. This is what impressed me so much about the NHS care I was given. From discovery of the discharge to the removal of the duct took about three weeks. Despite the huge number of women that were at the clinic every time I went, the speed that my case was dealt with was remarkable.
I returned to the clinic alone for the biopsy results, I told my husband and friends that I would be fine as I was so confident that once the duct had been removed there would be no need for further treatment – how wrong I was! My consultant didn’t really beat about the bush he just said the biopsy showed that there were cancer cells in the duct and that it was called DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in Situ). I remember feeling very calm initially but when the breast cancer care nurse came and took me to another room to call my husband, the enormity of what I had just been told slowly began to sink in.
After a further biopsy of the other ducts in my left breast I went back to see my consultant again. This time I took my husband with me. From the moment I walked in and saw the look in my consultant’s eyes, I knew it wasn’t going to be great news. He told me that the whole breast had extensive DCIS and would therefore have to be removed and how sorry he was, but that the prognosis was good if I had the surgery. As I sat nursing a coffee afterwards I recall holding my husband’s hand as he sobbed, whilst I calmly reassured him everything would be fine. Isn’t it funny how we all deal with things differently?
And so I was put on the waiting list to have my DIEP Flap mastectomy done at the Royal Marsden in Chelsea in September. This was all fine as we were supposed to be driving to the South of France on holiday as a family in mid July. However as the date approached for us to go I began to feel more and more unwell and it became obvious that I had an infection in my breast from the second biopsy. When I went to A & E I was told that my Consultant had accidentally cut off the blood supply to my nipple when he did the last biopsy and so basically my nipple was dying and I was told I shouldn’t go on holiday. My husband and the older children drove down to St Tropez leaving me and my three year old at home. A week later after being shown how to change my own dressings we flew to meet the rest of the family on holiday. It was a strange holiday as I was living under such a black cloud but it was good to be away from all the hospital appointments and although I hadn’t told the children about my planned surgery – my husband was being kind and loving.
However nothing could have prepared me for the moment as I was doing my daily dressing change. The sun was blazing through the window, it was an idyllic morning on the French Riviera, but as I looked down at my dressing I realised with shock, horror and slight amusement that my nipple had actually fallen off. It’s hard to know what to do in such circumstances, such as how do you then dispose of it and would it be appropriate to pop it in the bin in the kitchen or not? Anyway I did get rid of it and I do think it’s quite funny that my nipple dropped off in St Tropez – there must be a song title in there somewhere!
And so I had my mastectomy in mid September. It was a six hour operation done by a fantastic plastic surgeon and his team at the Marsden. They took fat from my stomach in a “tummy tuck” style operation and moved it to my left breast which was reconstructed at the same time. Within 12 hours I was up and about – I remember feeling self-conscious at my lack of make-up and looking so utterly revolting, so even though I had a 21 inch scar around my tummy I decided to paint my toe nails just so I could feel a bit more normal!
Since then I have had two more operations to reconstruct my nipple and I am now waiting for my tattoo to be done which is basically around the areolae area to create a sort of trompe l’oeil type of effect…. should be interesting – never thought I would get a tattoo!
This might sound a bit weird but all in all it has been a very positive experience. I know I was lucky. I was lucky to have had a sign that something was wrong so early that it could be dealt with quickly. I even think how if it had been in the winter months and I was wearing a black bra instead of a cream one – I wouldn’t necessarily have spotted the discharge. I was lucky too that once I had my mastectomy done I didn’t need further treatment. I know so many people who have had radiotherapy, chemotherapy and are on Tamoxifen in addition to the surgery. My surgeon is a complete genius and has created a wonderful new breast that looks incredible. I was in a bikini lying on a beach four months after my surgery – admittedly I did have big pants on as my scar is rather wide but you would never really know otherwise.
And so for all the awful, heart wrenchingly painful stories that you might have read about breast cancer….please remember there are so many positive ones too. Naturally I did have my dark moments – usually when I was putting my little three year old to bed and as I kissed her soft, sweet smelling hair goodnight I would wonder if I would be there for her as she grew up. But there is nothing more life affirming than having children and they have given me more strength than they will ever know.
Posted by Family Affairs on 16-05-2011 in BLOG tagged with Breast Cancer / CHARITY / Pink Power Walk / walk
We walked the walk, again, yesterday – 16 miles to raise money for breast cancer. It was a glorious day, not too hot, but sunny. Everything looking splendidly green, in amongst the pink. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, did it in the rubbish time of 4.5 hours but it didn’t matter. […]
Posted by Family Affairs on 12-04-2011 in BLOG tagged with bowel cancer / Breast Cancer / statistics / symptoms
More women are diagnosed with bowel cancer than with cervical and breast cancer combined and it is the third most common cancer in the UK and yet it has an extremely low profile presumably because there is a general reluctance to talk about it openly. Overall, bowel cancer kills 16,250 men and women a year.
My father died of bowel cancer and it is very likely that he didn’t do anything about his symptoms until it was too little too late. Most people don’t know what the symptoms of this particular cancer are and the list of symptoms you find are unclear – so I’m going to tell you what the main symptoms are:-
– A change in bowel routine
– Bleeding from the rectum or blood in your stools
– Extreme tiredness
– Weight loss
– Pain or a lump in the abdomen
In a report online today a study suggests that the survival rate for bowel cancer surgery varies widely between hospitals – not good.
Posted by Family Affairs on 06-05-2010 in BLOG tagged with Breast Cancer
My beautiful friend – the one who isn’t even forty yet, the one who hasn’t even had her children yet, the one who was teaching a workshop and attending the Maggie’s event with me just a few months ago, the one who loved and protected her husband with a passion I envied, the one who glowed with an inner light that everybody could see, the one who fought her battle with cancer with a grace and dignity and strength, the one who refused to be defined by her cancer, the one so lovely, so positive, so brave, that you felt privileged to have been part of her life;
My beautiful friend,
One of her last texts to me just before I went to Australia was:-
“Safe travels. Have an amazing time. And make sure you just savour and enjoy every day you are there. Big love xx”
Well if that’s not a message we should remind ourselves of every day, I don’t know what is.
“We should all live as if we were never going to die, for it is the deaths of our friends that hurt us, not our own.” Gerald Brenan
Posted by Family Affairs on 02-02-2010 in BLOG tagged with Breast Cancer
I have just taught my Tuesday morning class with a heavy heart. Because there was somebody missing today who couldn’t come. A friend who has cancer. She texted me this morning with news of her latest scan results: “All bad news. Been in bad pain since Sunday. Yesterday was told liver not in good shape. They are moving fast with pain relief and start new chemo on Thurs. Won’t be in class as parents coming over to try and help me / me try to help them and still in some pain. All cried and talked out now but will speak to you soon my friend. The girl ain’t beaten yet x”.
And it made me cry. Because life is so unfair. She is so young. So beautiful. She’s got one of those shiny souls that just ooze through every pore and she’s done so well. In the time that I’ve known her we’ve worked together through one round of chemo strengthening and stretching her body, she’s done a photography course, she’s travelled the world with her lovely husband and she’s now started the training to be an instructor teaching the same form of exercise as me. On Saturday, when we did a workshop together I encouraged her to take the whole class herself. I was there in the background to step in if she needed me, but she didn’t – she did the whole two hour class without any help from me and she was magnificent. What a triumph of achievement. What a long way she’s come.
She of all people makes me wonder what life is all about. She has a strong faith and I believe that this has helped her hugely. She also has a deep internal strength and an understanding that sometimes she has to be stronger than she wants to be because of the people around her who love her deeply. You can see that from her text about having to try and help her parents.
When I first met her I wouldn’t have dreamt of writing about her on my blog. She was a very private person who didn’t want to talk about what she was going through. Now it’s different. We’ve spent a lot of time together discussing the various aspects of our lives. “Control the controllables” she has said to me on more than one occasion. I know she reads my blog and I hope she won’t mind me writing about her, but she has her own blog now. Full of thoughts and recipes and stuff in general. She’s come a long way in the time that I’ve known her and whilst she’s got a long journey ahead of her she is still full of hope and surrounded by love.
It must feel exhausting at times like these to have to keep going. To feel that you are up against another brick wall that you have to climb over or break through. She observed once that from the outside looking in, people assume that you are incredibly brave to deal with the shit that life throws at you, but that it’s not really like that. When you are going through a trauma, you just have to deal with it as best you can. I have just read a fellow bloggers story – Rosie Scribble’s post entitled Miracle Walker – all about her daugher’s’ struggle to walk – she makes some relevant points: “there was little choice but to face each day, no matter how tough life is, the world keeps turning and you just can’t give up”.
So, my lovely friend, “When life gets tough, keep going, an hour at a time, a day at a time, one step at a time”.
We’ll all keep going with you.
Posted by Family Affairs on 28-05-2008 in BLOG tagged with Breast Cancer
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