Denise is helping make breast cancer a thing of the past
Wear it pink supporter, Denise, tells us her story of breast cancer, and how she is ‘paying it forward’ and helping to create a future where no one will have to die from breast cancer.
The whole thought process of wearing anything pink, prior to April of this year, was only because of my increasingly grey hair and the need to change my style of dress and colour schemes. Now don’t get me wrong, in my role as a professional researcher, lecturer and speaker at conferences, my appearance matters – but never has wearing it pink been more important to me and others like me, than it is now!
My honest thoughts and fears
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2017 and it was a complete shock. I had no idea whatsoever – no signs, no concerns and no issues. But when I was diagnosed, my whole world immediately changed. It felt like everything in my life had been stopped and that time had been interrupted. I distinctly remember feeling like I was heading toward a head-on collision with my fate.
My fears bounced all over the place on the first day of diagnosis: ‘was this how my life would end up? Would I get to retirement? Would I get through my bucket list or would I have to make a much shortened version? What about my husband? We only got married last year! My dad? My dog? My charity work? My holidays – could I still go away? How is my life going to change in the short and long term? What about my students? My research? Will I be around next year? Or even at the end of this summer?! You get the idea! They were honest thoughts and fears, and yes, I was absolutely devastated when I heard the news that a ‘worrying lump’ had been found deep inside my left breast.
When the initial shock wore off, I realised pretty quickly that I was lucky. The whole point of having a mammogram to identify if there was anything to worry about in my breasts, had worked! I took huge comfort in the fact that if I was going to have cancer, I wanted it to be found and dealt with – however that ‘process’ may end up.
Picking up the pieces
While it's still early days, I can honestly say that things have been very different to what I had feared. The surgery is over, the tumour removed (wow, was I glad to get that out of my body!), the nodes have been checked and it was determined that the cancer has not spread. I have had consultant appointments and discussed my future, gone through pre-op procedures, the surgery itself, the aches and soreness post-operation, and been progressed through four intensive weeks of radiotherapy. Phew, it’s exhausting recalling just how much my body and mind has been through in only five months!
I would say the hardest part of my experience of breast cancer was the last day of my radiotherapy. I can honestly say I miss those radiotherapists so much. They have been my closest friends and confidantes during one of my most alarming life experiences to date and, being post-treatment now, things can be challenging!
For four months I have been monitored, cared for, and generally supported by a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, consultants and nurses – and now suddenly I'm back on my own. Back to self-examination, being body aware and generally picking up the pieces from my shock of being diagnosed back in April.
Determined to pay it forward
How am I dealing with this post-treatment period? By engaging in every form of post-treatment support I can access through my hospital. I’m doing yoga, counselling, EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), reflexology and attending gentle exercise classes’ weekly. I also make a point of walking at least twice a day. These have all helped in some way to ease the physical and emotional stress that has built-up since diagnosis, but the one thing I have found that has really helped me in these recovery times, has been writing my personal blog Roast Beef and Raspberries – diary of a breast cancer patient and contact with other breast cancer patients through the Breast Cancer Now Forum. I have made some truly amazing friends who I would have never have met had I not had breast cancer.
I can truly say that now life for me is as sweet as it can be: I am here, live and kicking! I certainly know who my friends are through all of this, and they have been as solid as a rock. More than anything I am absolutely determined to pay it forward where and when I can – wear it pink is an excellent way to do this. Without the research that has advanced, especially in the last decade, I might not have been here to tell my story, but here I am and I am grateful to all involved in my progress.
So, with tremendous support from the University of Winchester, where I work, we put on events for wear it pink during our Student Graduation Week in October with support from the wear it pink team.
I would recommend anyone who has had breast cancer, male or female, to get involved in whatever way you can. Get involved and help Breast Cancer Now continue research into breast cancer even further. One day, we may just be able to make this disease a thing of the past.Find out more about our research