Post is written by Priya Malde (my sister) to raise awareness for Breast Cancer Awareness month
2 weeks after I turned 40 during the Summer of 2018 I got diagnosed with stage 2 LCIS breast cancer.
- 45 years ago, long before I was born my eldest sister died from leukaemia aged 4.
- 40 years ago my grandmother died of stage 4 breast cancer.
- Just over 8 years ago, whilst I was 8 months pregnant, my mum had DCIS. She had two failed lumpectomies and ended up having a mastectomy with reconstruction.
- 4 years ago my Dad was diagnosed with stage 4 brain tumour. My dad showed amazing strength and courage. He was handed a death sentence and instead of letting it ruin him he fought back with smiles and laughter. All he wanted was to see his grandchildren and that gave him the strength to keep going. We looked after him at home and he died, with us all around him. That was over 3 years ago.
Far too many members of my family have died from cancer.
Not too many success stories.
But I am one.
5 years ago I found out I have a weak heart. And all I could think about was that I was going to die, never seeing my two babies grow up, and that they won't remember me. I spent every night crying. Luckily my heart issues will not kill me!
July 2018 - the first night of our summer holiday and my back and chest felt very itchy (in fact they had done for three months before that, but I put it down to the heatwave).
As I rubbed my left nipple I felt a lump. My heart stopped. I'm in Turkey to celebrate my 40th birthday and I've found a lump. There was a moment when I thought about ignoring it. But quickly I text my husband (who was with our son in the other room), so that the next day I couldn't ignore what I found.
My husband Neil is a GP, he confirmed it was a lump and tried to not let me panic. He took charge and contacted my GP at home. We were booked to be away for 2 weeks.
I am a Pharmacist, but my initial thought was that if I pretend it’s not there then maybe it will go away.
But it obviously wouldn't.
Once I arrived home I had received a letter from the hospital and I had an appointment 2 days later.
So 2 weeks after I found my lump I had a mammogram which saw only my little lump that I had felt.
The clinic doctor and nurse said that they would also do an ultrasound scan, which is usually done with patients in a similar situation. The ultrasound scan found my little lump that I’d felt – but it also found a huge mass of dodgy cells roughly 8 cm big, which I didn't know was there and couldn’t feel from the outside!
They took many biopsies immediately.
Two weeks later I went back for the results with my husband, and the consultant said the dreaded words. I have stage 2 breast cancer.
Not from the lump I felt but from the huge mass the scan found which I didn’t even know about.
My husbands was in complete shock.
My reaction was more practical, it can't be, our daughter is in year 5, we have 11+ exams to manage!
At this point I had two options - to cry and crumble into a wet mess, or to deal with this and to fight this so I can stay around for my kids to grow up.
I chose the second option, I was going to deal with this head on, there was no way I was giving up without a fight!
1 week later I had an MRI, to see where and how big the cancer was and I got those results a week later.
The mass was now 9 cm big!
The consultant told me I'd have to have a mastectomy.
I'll be completely honest the moment they told me it was cancer I knew I'd have a mastectomy, I did not want to keep a breast that was trying to kill me!!
I was also told that because of my age, my two young kids and the fact I didn't know the cancer was there, that they would throw everything at me - mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
We had originally planned to have a road trip in France as a family, but now I just wanted the operation. So to let my 2 children have a little holiday we went away to Paris over the August bank holiday weekend, where my kids danced around the room in my bras, to celebrate the last day of my cancer in me.
Then on Tuesday 28th August I had a mastectomy of my left breast.
They later told me I had 4 cancer areas 2 cm, 1.3 cm, 0.9 cm and 0.7 cm within that mass.
The surgery went well, and thanks to my family and friends I've recovered so well.
During the surgery they took out a few lymph nodes which they would exam to see if the cancer had spread.
This was the hardest 2 weeks that i had experienced yet, waiting to see if the cancer had spread.
Luckily the lymph nodes were clear and this meant I didn't need chemotherapy.
But I had radiotherapy, because they couldn't guarantee one of the margins was clear, even though there is now a huge risk I'll have a heart condition in 10-15 years time because they used radiation on the chest wall directly above my heart.
But my short term goal, my aim is to live for at least 5 years and see my kids grow up.
Dying right now was not an option.
But there's more.....
Sadly, 1 week before my operation one of our best friends died suddenly of a heart attack. She was only 38 years old and one of the most amazing women I've met. She was my rock when dad was ill. She nursed her own mum who had breast cancer ‘til the end, whilst being heavily pregnant herself.
Having had just watched my Dad and a friend die while I was going through this made me think so differently then maybe I would have.
It was then that I realised how lucky I was. How lucky I was to have found my lump on my nipple, as this then meant I got to go to hospital where the scan picked up that huge mass. If I had pretended the lump wasn't there I would never have found that mass, which would very likely have taken my life.
My friend wasn't as lucky, my Dad wasn't lucky.
She didn't have a chance to fight for her life.
My Dad shone positivity, laughter and normality for the sake of everyone else around. Always smiling.
With my friend’s strength and my dad's positivity I managed to get through the next few months.
Waiting to see if the cancer had gone and not spread (the worst few weeks of my life), the radiotherapy, and coming to terms with my new body.
Not all breast cancers can be felt as lumps.
Mine was a rash on my back and chest, which I thought was from the heatwave.
Mine was pain in my breast, which I thought was from when I breast fed my son.
But there was no actual lump where the cancer was.
All my symptoms could be explained away as time of the month or badly fitted bras!
I had a mastectomy without reconstruction, and I do not plan to have reconstruction.
I was very lucky with my radiotherapy and I didn’t have any skin reactions, but after a few months I got very tired, and I still have bone pain from the radiation.
I was very lucky that I am hormone positive, that my cancer grows from oestrogen, as I can take Tamoxifen to stop my body using the hormone.
So, this means that I've started the menopause at 40 (probably harder for everyone around me!)
2 years on and I am still struggling with the side effects of tamoxifen.
As a parent
From the start my then 9 year old and 6 year old knew I had a 'blockage', (not a 'lump' or 'cancer' as their Nana had died from that, and I didn't want them to think I was going to die!) and it would kill me if not removed.
To get better I would need to remove my breast.
When my Dad was ill I never lied to my kids, they knew in simple terms what was happening. And I had decided from then that I will always be honest with them, but at the start didn't want to use the term cancer until I knew it hadn't spread.
But when our friend passed, my husband was just so angry all the time. I think the reality that this could be us was just too real.
So I sat my kids down and explained everything. That I had cancer and he was scared because I could also die if I didn't have surgery.
They were fantastic. So supportive.
Not scared of my new body, wanting to see the bandages, then the scar.
Like for my dad, from day 1 they were what gave me my strength to get through this nightmare.
The hardest scariest part was the waiting for six weeks, the tests, the waiting for results. Not knowing if I can be fixed.
But again no complaining.
We have an awesome NHS
The dedicated staff treated me with such respect. And still help me.
I have been back several times for various reasons and every time they are all incredible.
I also used the Lynda Jackson centre at Mount Vernon hospital and they are truly amazing and so so supportive.
It was hard at first, but now my scar, my flat chest is what makes me fight every day.
I'm so grateful to be alive, to have the most amazing family and friends around me, here or looking after me from above.
Everyday there is a thought that the cancer could come back, my left side hurts so much since surgery and radiotherapy. So much so I've already gone back thinking I have bone cancer. And I've not got full movement back in my left arm.
The thought of dying and leaving my kids without a mother made me fight harder.
I cleared my head of any negativity.
There was only one outcome
I was going to fight it.
Now when I feel I can't get through some thing, I literally look in the mirror and at my scar.
I will not have reconstruction, I love this Priya who fought so hard.
I also want my kids to know that looking different is okay, in fact its special
The reason I waited to tell most people was because I couldn't manage their sadness. I was trying my hardest to stay positive.
- I don't feel sorry for myself or embarrassed.
- I feel lucky
- Lucky to have caught it
- Lucky they could remove it
- Lucky to have a chance to live
- Lucky to have my mum give up her life to stay at mine to help. My sister to be the kids' second mum and a husband who made sure I got the best care.
Please please please
Check your breasts
I was so very lucky.
My cancer couldn't be felt but if I had ignored the initial small lump the only way this cancer would have been found is when it was too late
PLEASE CHECK YOUR BREASTS
Summer of 2018 I got diagnosed with stage 2 LCIS breast cancer.
My rough timetable
- Friday 13th July I found a small non cancerous lump
- 8th August told it's LCIS breast cancer
- 16th August had MRI
- 22nd told I need a mastectomy
- Tuesday 28th August had my mastectomy
- 10th September told not spread through lymph nodes
- 16th September started tamoxifen
- 2nd October pre radiotherapy check
- 8th October got my prosthesis
- 11th October started 3 weeks of radiotherapy
- 22nd January told I'm cancer free
- but on going stress and worry!!
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