Our Breast Cancer Stories - 2

Ann's ~ Maria's ~ Elizabeth's ~ Heather's ~ Pat's ~ Valda's ~ Bernice’s ~ Pam's Also see Roy Collins' story on our Men with Breast Cancer page and 'What the group means to me'
Asking members of the group to recall their breast cancer stories is not always an easy task. Most of us would rather look forward than back to a time fraught with worries and fear. However, we like to give hope to those recently diagnosed, just look at some of those dates! Treatments may have changed but we are still here and enjoying life in 2017.

PAT'S STORY

In November 1999, I discovered a lump in my left breast. This didn’t come as much of a surprise as I’d experienced lumpy breasts from my early 20s, and had had a couple of small benign lumps removed previously. I went along to my GP to have it checked out and he suggested that I have an appointment at the Conquest Hospital where Mr Khoury could check it over properly. I attended the clinic, without any real worries because of my previous experiences, so was rather taken back when I was told that the lump in my left breast was ok, but they were a little worried about the one in my right breast. I hadn’t even realised that there was one there, even when I was shown where it was I still had a job to locate it! However I was also told not to worry because it was probably ok. An appointment was made for me to have an ultrasound scan to check things over further. So confident was I that everything would be ok, that I attended the ultrasound appointment on my own, so imagine my shock and horror when I was told that the lump in my right breast could very well be cancerous. I don’t remember how I drove home that day and found it very difficult when I arrived home to put on a brave face, until some of our young youth club members at our house at the time. Had gone home I had to have several other tests spread out over the following weeks to try and clarify whether the tumour was cancerous, or not, each one came back inconclusive– it was agonising waiting for each appointment, I’m so glad to hear that these tests are now carried out in one day where possible. All the uncertainty took us over Christmas and the Millenium New Year, our celebrations were somewhat subdued. During my hospital visits I was introduced to Breast Care Nurse, Pam Shadbolt who reassured both my husband and I all along the way and was always there for us, the support was fantastic. Towards the end of January I was admitted into hospital to have the lumps removed from both breasts. Following this I was told that the lump in my left breast was benign, but that there were cancerous cells around the one in my right breast and they would need to operate again to remove further tissue. My husband and I had already spoken about what might happen next and were both in full agreement that it would be best to remove the whole breast and do away with any further risk, so I had my right breast and some lymph nodes removed in February. This wasn’t the awful operation I had imagined it to be, not even that painful really, perhaps it had all been made easier for me because Pam had suggested I attended the local support group, where I met the most fantastic people who really helped to lift my spirits and feel positive. I will always remember the kindness of one member who had given me her telephone number. Two days before my op I rang her, she too had had a mastectomy, and I asked lots of what I thought silly questions, she immediately invited me round for a coffee. Whilst I was there she showed me her prosthesis, and after I’d questioned her as to what I might look like after the op, she offered to show me her scar, I was amazed at the simple white line across her chest and came away from her home much more confident about the operation. After my mastectomy, there was some concern about cancerous cells that had not shown up on any of the tests carried out, and I was asked to have a MRI scan to confirm that there were in fact no cancerous cells in the other breast. More worries, but luckily nothing showed up in the scan and so on 31 March 2000 I was able to start my chemotherapy. I had six doses of FEC. I imagined having chemotherapy being the most awful thing to experience, and so was pleasantly surprised to find that I was never sick, the thing I’d dreaded the most, and that after a couple of doses I could plan out my life around the treatments. As I previously mentioned my husband and I ran a Church youth group at the time, we continued to do this throughout the treatment, which was wonderful for my husband, it put a sort of normality back into our lives, we attended a pop concert, had days out and I even went on a residential school trip to London for a week – although not as a leader as in previous years. I did lose my hair, which I must admit I did find very upsetting, I found the worse part was actually losing it. When it had gone it was easier to cope with. I bought a wig and with fear and trepidation wore it into school, "I don’t like your new hairstyle Miss" one child said. "That ain’t a new hairstyle, that’s a wig," answered another; I took a deep breath, and then admitted that it was, explaining as delicately the situation as I could. It was the best thing I could have done, after the initial reaction, no-one bothered about it. In fact I have several amusing wig stories from this time, it helps to laugh. Following my chemotherapy I had three weeks radiotherapy at Maidstone. Again something I’d dreaded, but all went without a hitch and I was lucky enough to have different friends offer to drive me to Maidstone each day which helped out enormously as my husband didn’t have to take time off work and there was a petrol shortage on!! My appointments were mid-day, the trips became more social, as we stopped at a pub for lunch on the way home. I returned to work October 2000, I took things slowly, but I noticed that at each school holiday I needed to rest a little less and my energy was returning. Because of the type of cancer that I had, and the fact that I was told that there was a chance, albeit slim, that it could occur in my other breast I opted to have my left breast removed 2 years later. I have never looked back, or been tempted to have reconstructive surgery and am completely happy with life.

VALDA'S STORY

It was all over in three hours – the mammogram and biopsy then the result! Yes, I had breast cancer. Very fortunately for me, I had a very dear friend, years before describe the small prickly, slightly fluttering sensation in her breast, as mine now, which had prepared me. My son, in his late twenties, two Macmillan nurses and a breast cancer consultant of plus thirty years’ experience had a discussion as to the best treatment and medication. This all took place at the "Parapet" Breast cancer Unit in Windsor. Oh, I had the nipple "piercing", as I call it, at another Cancer Unit in Reading, was peeved that the dye was green and not blue. Didn’t match my undies! And no studs!! However the discussion for my treatment was of course surgery – done and dusted within 10 days at Heatherwood Hospital, Ascot. I missed the races at the Grand Stand, as in a bit of a haze that May and June. Once on Arimadex (Anastrazole) I really, really felt the difference from the side effects, as normally I was a PR – host in a large leisure centre, ran children’s parties and hosted also assisted, organised, large companies activities. The effects of Arimadex made me perspire profusely and this was face, neck hands and arms, thankfully it was quite a hot summer. I drank much cold water and went through masses of tissues. Some nausea at times. The long and short of it is, I continued working for a year, no one knew of my breast cancer, and I rarely discussed it even with my family of son, daughter and two grandsons, only with the medical profession. I found much ignorance and fear, my then hairdresser literally screamed when I quietly told her, and shrieked "How did you catch it?" I thought she was going to have a heart attack and got her a glass of water. Explanations are useless! Now, I am in a retirement complex, sheltered accommodation, in Bexhill on Sea. A cool flat, the Pink Ladies and two or three good local friends. My family in Berkshire visit and I journey, by train or car, to stay with them approximately every three months. My five years in remission may soon be up. Hooray!! The Conquest now cares for me.

BERNICE'S STORY

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March, on my birthday, in 2011. From this moment on my whole world was turned upside down, questions I had, with no answers why, why, why me? Only having my husband and two young teenage children to talk too, there were things they didn’t understand. They didn’t really understand what I was going through. When returning back to the hospital, after all the treatment, in September I was feeling quite depressed when I noticed a poster for 1066 Pink Ladies Breast Cancer meetings. So I phoned up to find out more and spoke to a lady called Pat, who was very helpful and understanding and put me in touch with another new lady, so we travelled together to the meeting. On the day of the first meeting I was having a low day, so at times I was going to cancel, but I didn’t. On the way to the meeting my stomach was in turmoil, when arriving there I was welcomed with open arms and made to feel totally at ease. I felt safe. All I was going through and had been through, so had all these other ladies, at times my eyes filled with tears and when I looked around the room at the others they smiled, they knew. When the meeting finished I felt so uplifted. I felt supported by the group and really looked forward to the next meeting. I was pleased I had gone; I was determined to carry on with my life.

PAM'S STORY - Experiences of a retired Breast Care Nurse

The post of Clinical Nurse Specialist in breast care was set up in 1995 with the help of Macmillan cancer Research, and having completed the Advanced Breast Care Course at the Royal Marsden I was lucky enough to be appointed to set up this new post. Working with the multidisciplinary team in hospital and community was very enjoyable and I rapidly made many contacts with a whole range of health professionals with whom I could work. Most of these were only too pleased to acknowledge that there was a need for a specialist who would be able to give individual attention to breast cancer patients in order to meet their various needs. Each day I met patients in clinic and spent time with them explaining and supporting them at diagnosis and throughout their treatment and care, often helping to choose options when that was necessary trying to pace information , both written and verbal, for them and their families. Everyone had contact details so they could ring at any time and expect a rapid response. Appointments could be made and there was also a drop-in facility on a Friday morning. Each week there was a multidisciplinary meeting when surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, radiographers, pathologist and breast care nurses met to discuss lab reports and draw up treatment plans, This was later relayed to the patient and I would often spend time clarifying this to make sure that everyone really understood what was happening to them and that they had a say in this. Other aspects of the role included arranging prosthetics, a Headstrong visit to support those who were losing their hair through chemotherapy, financial and social support via appropriate agencies, and emotional help with complimentary therapies and the support group. All in all I have been privileged to work with a host of lovely people and I just hope that I was of some help to them at such difficult times.

Comment:

Pam along with a team of colleagues was responsible for starting up this support group in 1981, and still regularly attends our meetings - I think everyone would agree that she certainly has been able to help many of us through difficult times.
Our Stories - Page 1 Our Stories - Page 1
Hastings and Bexhill Area Breast Cancer Support Group

PAT'S STORY

In November 1999, I discovered a lump in my left breast. This didn’t come as much of a surprise as I’d experienced lumpy breasts from my early 20s, and had had a couple of small benign lumps removed previously. I went along to my GP to have it checked out and he suggested that I have an appointment at the Conquest Hospital where Mr Khoury could check it over properly. I attended the clinic, without any real worries because of my previous experiences, so was rather taken back when I was told that the lump in my left breast was ok, but they were a little worried about the one in my right breast. I hadn’t even realised that there was one there, even when I was shown where it was I still had a job to locate it! However I was also told not to worry because it was probably ok. An appointment was made for me to have an ultrasound scan to check things over further. So confident was I that everything would be ok, that I attended the ultrasound appointment on my own, so imagine my shock and horror when I was told that the lump in my right breast could very well be cancerous. I don’t remember how I drove home that day and found it very difficult when I arrived home to put on a brave face, until some of our young youth club members at our house at the time. Had gone home I had to have several other tests spread out over the following weeks to try and clarify whether the tumour was cancerous, or not, each one came back inconclusive– it was agonising waiting for each appointment, I’m so glad to hear that these tests are now carried out in one day where possible. All the uncertainty took us over Christmas and the Millenium New Year, our celebrations were somewhat subdued. During my hospital visits I was introduced to Breast Care Nurse, Pam Shadbolt who reassured both my husband and I all along the way and was always there for us, the support was fantastic. Towards the end of January I was admitted into hospital to have the lumps removed from both breasts. Following this I was told that the lump in my left breast was benign, but that there were cancerous cells around the one in my right breast and they would need to operate again to remove further tissue. My husband and I had already spoken about what might happen next and were both in full agreement that it would be best to remove the whole breast and do away with any further risk, so I had my right breast and some lymph nodes removed in February. This wasn’t the awful operation I had imagined it to be, not even that painful really, perhaps it had all been made easier for me because Pam had suggested I attended the local support group, where I met the most fantastic people who really helped to lift my spirits and feel positive. I will always remember the kindness of one member who had given me her telephone number. Two days before my op I rang her, she too had had a mastectomy, and I asked lots of what I thought silly questions, she immediately invited me round for a coffee. Whilst I was there she showed me her prosthesis, and after I’d questioned her as to what I might look like after the op, she offered to show me her scar, I was amazed at the simple white line across her chest and came away from her home much more confident about the operation. After my mastectomy, there was some concern about cancerous cells that had not shown up on any of the tests carried out, and I was asked to have a MRI scan to confirm that there were in fact no cancerous cells in the other breast. More worries, but luckily nothing showed up in the scan and so on 31 March 2000 I was able to start my chemotherapy. I had six doses of FEC. I imagined having chemotherapy being the most awful thing to experience, and so was pleasantly surprised to find that I was never sick, the thing I’d dreaded the most, and that after a couple of doses I could plan out my life around the treatments. As I previously mentioned my husband and I ran a Church youth group at the time, we continued to do this throughout the treatment, which was wonderful for my husband, it put a sort of normality back into our lives, we attended a pop concert, had days out and I even went on a residential school trip to London for a week – although not as a leader as in previous years. I did lose my hair, which I must admit I did find very upsetting, I found the worse part was actually losing it. When it had gone it was easier to cope with. I bought a wig and with fear and trepidation wore it into school, "I don’t like your new hairstyle Miss" one child said. "That ain’t a new hairstyle, that’s a wig," answered another; I took a deep breath, and then admitted that it was, explaining as delicately the situation as I could. It was the best thing I could have done, after the initial reaction, no-one bothered about it. In fact I have several amusing wig stories from this time, it helps to laugh. Following my chemotherapy I had three weeks radiotherapy at Maidstone. Again something I’d dreaded, but all went without a hitch and I was lucky enough to have different friends offer to drive me to Maidstone each day which helped out enormously as my husband didn’t have to take time off work and there was a petrol shortage on!! My appointments were mid-day, the trips became more social, as we stopped at a pub for lunch on the way home. I returned to work October 2000, I took things slowly, but I noticed that at each school holiday I needed to rest a little less and my energy was returning. Because of the type of cancer that I had, and the fact that I was told that there was a chance, albeit slim, that it could occur in my other breast I opted to have my left breast removed 2 years later. I have never looked back, or been tempted to have reconstructive surgery and am completely happy with life.

VALDA'S STORY

It was all over in three hours – the mammogram and biopsy then the result! Yes, I had breast cancer. Very fortunately for me, I had a very dear friend, years before describe the small prickly, slightly fluttering sensation in her breast, as mine now, which had prepared me. My son, in his late twenties, two Macmillan nurses and a breast cancer consultant of plus thirty years’ experience had a discussion as to the best treatment and medication. This all took place at the "Parapet" Breast cancer Unit in Windsor. Oh, I had the nipple "piercing", as I call it, at another Cancer Unit in Reading, was peeved that the dye was green and not blue. Didn’t match my undies! And no studs!! However the discussion for my treatment was of course surgery – done and dusted within 10 days at Heatherwood Hospital, Ascot. I missed the races at the Grand Stand, as in a bit of a haze that May and June. Once on Arimadex (Anastrazole) I really, really felt the difference from the side effects, as normally I was a PR – host in a large leisure centre, ran children’s parties and hosted also assisted, organised, large companies activities. The effects of Arimadex made me perspire profusely and this was face, neck hands and arms, thankfully it was quite a hot summer. I drank much cold water and went through masses of tissues. Some nausea at times. The long and short of it is, I continued working for a year, no one knew of my breast cancer, and I rarely discussed it even with my family of son, daughter and two grandsons, only with the medical profession. I found much ignorance and fear, my then hairdresser literally screamed when I quietly told her, and shrieked "How did you catch it?" I thought she was going to have a heart attack and got her a glass of water. Explanations are useless! Now, I am in a retirement complex, sheltered accommodation, in Bexhill on Sea. A cool flat, the Pink Ladies and two or three good local friends. My family in Berkshire visit and I journey, by train or car, to stay with them approximately every three months. My five years in remission may soon be up. Hooray!! The Conquest now cares for me.

BERNICE'S STORY

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March, on my birthday, in 2011. From this moment on my whole world was turned upside down, questions I had, with no answers why, why, why me? Only having my husband and two young teenage children to talk too, there were things they didn’t understand. They didn’t really understand what I was going through. When returning back to the hospital, after all the treatment, in September I was feeling quite depressed when I noticed a poster for 1066 Pink Ladies Breast Cancer meetings. So I phoned up to find out more and spoke to a lady called Pat, who was very helpful and understanding and put me in touch with another new lady, so we travelled together to the meeting. On the day of the first meeting I was having a low day, so at times I was going to cancel, but I didn’t. On the way to the meeting my stomach was in turmoil, when arriving there I was welcomed with open arms and made to feel totally at ease. I felt safe. All I was going through and had been through, so had all these other ladies, at times my eyes filled with tears and when I looked around the room at the others they smiled, they knew. When the meeting finished I felt so uplifted. I felt supported by the group and really looked forward to the next meeting. I was pleased I had gone; I was determined to carry on with my life.

PAM'S STORY - Experiences of a retired Breast

Care Nurse

The post of Clinical Nurse Specialist in breast care was set up in 1995 with the help of Macmillan cancer Research, and having completed the Advanced Breast Care Course at the Royal Marsden I was lucky enough to be appointed to set up this new post. Working with the multidisciplinary team in hospital and community was very enjoyable and I rapidly made many contacts with a whole range of health professionals with whom I could work. Most of these were only too pleased to acknowledge that there was a need for a specialist who would be able to give individual attention to breast cancer patients in order to meet their various needs. Each day I met patients in clinic and spent time with them explaining and supporting them at diagnosis and throughout their treatment and care, often helping to choose options when that was necessary trying to pace information , both written and verbal, for them and their families. Everyone had contact details so they could ring at any time and expect a rapid response. Appointments could be made and there was also a drop-in facility on a Friday morning. Each week there was a multidisciplinary meeting when surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, radiographers, pathologist and breast care nurses met to discuss lab reports and draw up treatment plans, This was later relayed to the patient and I would often spend time clarifying this to make sure that everyone really understood what was happening to them and that they had a say in this. Other aspects of the role included arranging prosthetics, a Headstrong visit to support those who were losing their hair through chemotherapy, financial and social support via appropriate agencies, and emotional help with complimentary therapies and the support group. All in all I have been privileged to work with a host of lovely people and I just hope that I was of some help to them at such difficult times.

Comment:

Pam along with a team of colleagues was responsible for starting up this support group in 1981, and still regularly attends our meetings - I think everyone would agree that she certainly has been able to help many of us through difficult times.

Our Breast Cancer Stories - 2

Ann's ~ Maria's ~ Elizabeth's ~ Heather's ~ Pat's ~ Valda's ~ Bernice’s ~ Pam's Also see Roy Collins' story on our Men with Breast Cancer page and 'What the group means to me'
Asking members of the group to recall their breast cancer stories is not always an easy task. Most of us would rather look forward than back to a time fraught with worries and fear. However, we like to give hope to those recently diagnosed, just look at some of those dates! Treatments may have changed but we are still here and enjoying life in 2017.
Our Stories - Page 1 Our Stories - Page 1
Hastings and Bexhill Area Breast Cancer Support Group