On Tuesday 11th December, 2018 when I was 20 weeks pregnant I was laid in bed with my boyfriend Paul talking about being half way through our pregnancy. I had an itch under my left breast so naturally went to scratch it when I discovered a lump. I asked Paul to feel it too to confirm that it was a lump I was feeling but there was no doubt it was as it was fairly big.
The next morning I made an appointment at my doctors who saw me that day. My doctor confirmed the lump and referred me to a breast clinic, he told me I’d have an appointment within two weeks. My appointment took longer to come through, I’m guessing due to Christmas and on Tuesday 8th January 2019 off I went to Lincoln hospital. At this point I wasn’t worried, we have no history of breast cancer in our family and I was pregnant so surely it was just going to be blocked milk ducts........how wrong was I. After an examination, a mammogram, an ultra sound and swab samples taken over a period of 4 hours I was told that yes it looked like I had breast cancer. My world just stopped, time stood still, I was sure it was blocked milk ducts and couldn’t believe what I was being told. My main focus was my unborn baby so I wanted to know how it would effect him/her (we’d chosen not to find the sex out). I just wanted to know the facts and to see what happens next, I knew nothing about breast cancer at all but all I knew is that I wanted it gone immediately. On Friday 18th January I was back at Lincoln when I had my first appointment with my consultant, the swab samples confirmed breast cancer, it was grade 3 invasive ductal cancer with high grade DCIS, Her2 positive and because I was pregnant my hormones where speeding up the growth of the tumour so action needed to be taken and fast.
Suddenly my pregnancy was being shadowed by this horrible nightmare and although I remained calm and stayed very positive I was very scared. Scared that I’d never get to meet my baby, scared that Paul would be left with our baby on his own if I didn’t survive, scared that I’d pass the cancer onto my baby and scared about what the months ahead entailed.
On Tuesday 5th February 2019 I had a full mastectomy on my left breast and one of my lymph nodes removed for testing to see if the cancer had spread further. I couldn’t undergo reconstruction at the time as I was limited to how much anaesthetic I could have with being pregnant. Thankfully the results of the operation showed that the cancer hadn’t passed through my lymph nodes but my tumour was quite a size at 4.2cm so I was very lucky
My journey had not ended there, my baby was due on May 1st, however as my oncologist was keen for chemotherapy to start ASAP I was scheduled in for a cesarean section on Thursday 21st March (6 weeks early) so as you can imagine I could not settle for fear of the worst through the rest of my pregnancy. I had lots of meetings with my midwife, anaesthetist, oncologists and breast consultants leading up to my babies birth to make sure I was aware of all of the procedures ahead along with heart echos and many blood tests.
On the morning of the birth of my baby I was extremely anxious as you can imagine. All of the medical professionals at Lincoln hospital were amazing and did the best to put me and Paul at ease, they even made sure I had people on the delivery team that were with me during my mastectomy which was great. At 10:27am our baby boy Charlie was born weighing just 4lb 14oz, he had to go to intensive care straight away and was rushed to Nottingham for 4 days as he was very poorly. We had a few very scary days but again the nurses at Lincoln contacted Nottingham to make sure I was looked after as well as I was recovering from my c-section but wanted to be with my boy. Charlie thankfully came round and on Saturday 23rd we got to hold him for the first time which was truly amazing, I even got to breast feed him a little that day which is something I knew I could only do for a short time. On Monday March 25th he was brought back to Lincoln and I stayed in intensive care with him the whole time, my chemotherapy was due to start on Friday April 5th and I wanted Charlie to get as much milk from me as he could as I had to stop breast feeding once chemotherapy started as it is a poison so by staying in I was able to express every 3 hours which is what I did day and night from the day he was born until the morning of my first chemotherapy. I gave him as much of my milk as I could by either breast feeding or expressing, I’d even started expressing from 2 days before he was born to make sure he got my colostrum as well. Charlie was discharged from hospital on April 1st 2019, his discharge papers said he’d had suspected sepsis but nothing was confirmed and off we went home happy to have a few days to settle in before chemo started.
I had 6 sessions of chemotherapy, once every 3 weeks, 4 months in total and through this I was pretty much housebound as I was not allowed to catch any kind of illness, not even a sore throat or a cold as the chemo strips your immune system to nothing so a huge risk of infection such as sepsis. I did have one night in hospital on antibiotics due to a sore throat and my blood count dropping but other than that I just stayed safe at home cuddling up to my boy. In October I started 3 weeks of radiotherapy and I am still undergoing the treatment of herceptin, an injection I have to have once every 3 weeks for 18 sessions which is to kill off any remaining bad blood cells. Hopefully soon I will be having reconstruction too.
Many people commented to me during 2019 saying how hard it must have been for me to go through breast cancer whilst being pregnant and chemo whilst having a small baby, I tell everyone the same thing which is that I think I was very lucky to have had Charlie with me through it all as he kept my mind positive and gave me something else to focus on. I knew I had to come out of it ok for him, I wanted to be a mummy and nothing was going to take that away from me.
My cancer days are still not over, I may have had the initial all clear but I still have 4 years of check ups before I am given the complete all clear, I’m on medication for the next 10 years and it is constantly playing on your mind, I think more so now that I am a parent. During all of this from day one I have been very positive and focused on the job in hand, I needed an operation to remove a breast so I had it, my baby had to come early so I had him early, I had to have chemotherapy so that’s what I did, my hair started falling out so I asked Paul to shave it off, I needed radiotherapy so I went and had that and now once every 3 weeks I have an injection so I make sure I’m home for that but now that it’s all almost done with I have to admit it’s become more of a worry to me these days. Don’t get me wrong, I still remain positive and It’s not always at the front of my mind but I do worry about it coming back, I worry that I’ll not see my boy at the age I am now and I worry that I will leave loved ones behind earlier than I want too which I know are all natural feelings to have but even if you get the all clear, sadly cancer never leaves you.
I have no problem in sharing my story with anyone as I’d like to be there as a support for others in anyway that I can, like I had support. As well as Paul and my family I had and have a huge support network and during the months I had stuck in at home I had so many people in touch which was amazing including people I’d found on social media who had and were going through the same as me whilst pregnant. It is so important to have that whilst you are going through some thing like this and afterwards. I’m also taking part in surveys at the hospital to help them get an understanding of what goes through a cancer patients mind so that the right help can be put into place. I feel I’m lucky, I’ve dodged a bullet whereas others out there sadly aren’t so lucky so any help and support I can give I will.