As a 31 year old with no family history of breast cancer amidst a pandemic, I was advised to wait another 2 weeks and call again if it was still there – it was. Following my GP appointment my life was taken over by appointments, biopsies and scans.
On the 3rd of August 2020 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and it was confirmed it had spread to my lymph nodes, and I would require a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I cannot explain the relief at that moment, knowing it hadn’t spread any further, that I had a treatment plan to focus on and a recovery I plan to make. I will get through this.
For me the real kicker was the fertility element, people don’t talk about that. So having had my mastectomy just over a week ago and feeling surprisingly good, I am undertaking a potentially grueling fertility programme to harvest my eggs to (hopefully) ensure I can have children in the future even if the treatment I need to keep me alive, destroys my fertility in the process.
I think being younger comes with it’s own challenges that may feel small but that add up and can become overwhelming. Challenges around body image – hair loss, loss of fitness, disruption to career progression (that was a big one for me, as a nurse I felt like I was suddenly getting somewhere having being offered a promotion that I can no longer take) and restraints to your independence, I live alone and I am fiercely independent, and of course the fertility. I appreciate these can be challenges for all women with breast cancer and I am not saying being younger makes it worse, it doesn’t, just different.
For any age cancer can be isolating. But don’t let it be. Let’s talk about cancer, educate and raise awareness and consider sickness as well as just focusing on health and let your friends in, talk to them openly, they want to help. Let them.