Why breast screening is important to me
My story started at a crossroads in my life when in June 2010, my dearest friend received the all clear following her treatment for breast cancer (detected through her attendance at the breast screening programme) and the arrival of my 50th birthday breast screening invite.
It felt like a cruel twist of fate for my family and friends, when I was also diagnosed with breast cancer. I was sure that they had got it wrong; not me as well and in the same breast. After the initial shock, I realised how lucky I had been. Attending my appointment meant that my breast cancer was detected at an early stage, where changes in my breast would not have been felt by me through self examination. This meant that my surgery was less aggressive, therefore making my recovery journey a much easier one.
It still surprises me when I speak to women who say that they have received an invite letter to attend breast screening but have not attended their appointment. The usual reasons range from no time, not having a reason and fear. I am not going to pretend that going for any check isn’t worrying, but I was reassured by the dedicated and supportive staff who talked me through every stage.
My journey has been a difficult one for me, my family and friends to walk and whilst I wish I was not diagnosed with cancer, I am stronger today because of the great deal of support I have had and if by sharing my story it raises awareness and encourages one person to take up their breast screening invite, then I am happy.
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In January 2010 I experienced a sharp pain in my left breast. The first time I felt the pain it took my breath away. I tried to brush it off hoping it would just pass. However, the pain became more excruciating so I decided to go to my doctor. My doctor listened and acted on my concerns and referred me to the breast clinic. I wasn’t worried, I was still thinking “it’s probably nothing”.
My initial appointment was for an ultrasound and mammogram. I was not sure what to expect but the radiographer ensured I understood what was about to happen and talked me through the process. Following this, I received a further appointment for a biopsy examination.
Two weeks later, I was invited back to get the results from the biopsy. I was still thinking that it would be nothing. It wasn’t until the Consultant said “Isola, it’s not good news”. He continued to explain that I had breast cancer which was a blow to the stomach. He then went on to say that my left breast would have to be removed. I couldn’t respond at first, I thought he was talking about someone else, not me. The news shook my world. My eyes instantly filled with tears and I cried like I have never cried before. All I could think about was how am I going to tell my children?
From this point on everything moved very quickly. I was offered the opportunity to meet with a breast care nurse who talked through my results and options again. Even then, it still felt unreal. I couldn’t take in much of what she was saying. Fortunately for me my daughter was with me and was taking notes and asking questions.
The Surgeon took time to explain the best procedure for me; stage by stage. In my case this was a mastectomy and reconstruction surgery. I feel truly blessed that I had an excellent surgeon who listened, answered all my questions and helped to put my mind at ease.
My experience has made me realise how little some people know about cancer and how much still needs to be done to improve awareness, and I know I have a role to play in helping to spreading this awareness. I wouldn’t deny, that my journey and experience which began in May 2010 hasn’t changed my life forever. It has. However, I am proud to stand tall and say “I am a breast cancer survivor”.
(Rosemary Stapleton's daughter)
My Family's Journey
I want to share with you my thoughts about my Mum and Grandad’s journey with cancer. The journey began In July 2007, when my Mum broke the news that my Grandad had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. I remember feeling numb and not knowing what to say to her. The first thought that entered my mind was ‘Is my Grandad going to die?’. Mum reassured me that his cancer had been diagnosed at a very early stage and could be treated. I felt very optimistic, knowing my Grandad’s personality and his positive outlook when encountering adversities. My Grandad’s determination to combat his condition was very evident to us all.
However, in 2009 my Mum informed me that Grandad had taken a turn for the worst and advised me go and see him in the hospital. The doctor’s had assessed that he only had a couple of months to live!! It was shocking news. He was always happy to see my family and was such a funny character. He would initiate conversations mainly about his past that would fill the room with laughter and have us close to tears. Grandad made a miraculous recovery that year, which astounded the doctors.
Then in August 2010 my Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was quite positive about her condition and told me that she “only needs an operation and the cancer would be taken away”. I wasn’t worried because of her positive attitude and the fact that I had seen my Grandad fight his cancer all the way. I thank God his determined spirit was a trait my mum inherited. When my Mum came out of hospital, Grandad would make his way by bus to visit her at home. It was a very encouraging time for the whole family and I felt quite positive about how both my Mum and Grandad continued their fight with cancer.