THE BLOG

So You're Cancer-Free Now, Right?

18/04/2017 15:53 BST | Updated 18/04/2017 15:53 BST

.... goes down in history as the worst question that you can ask someone who has come through cancer treatment.

Breast cancer patients spend the five years following their diagnosis at the highest risk of reoccurrence with no clear test available to us. We rely on scans and 'awareness of changes' followed by the excruciating wait for our results. The truth is - we're never really clear of it, the terror of repeating the experience or spotting it too late for treatment to be effective follows us around for the rest of our lives (however long, or short that may be).

Very few people understand what living with this is really like. I've been lucky, by getting involved with Breast Cancer Now and M&S I've met some of the most incredible women who have all been affected by breast cancer. When my cancer returned within two years of my initial diagnosis they were by my side to help me through it. Although the reoccurrence sounds like spadesful of bad luck, if it hadn't been discovered in the way that it was, there's a good chance that I wouldn't be alive to write this blog.

I'd been through a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I was unrecognisable both physically and psychologically and wasn't sure whether I wanted to put myself through the reconstructive surgery which involved removing a large amount of fat and skin from my stomach and using it to create a new breast; pioneering surgery that felt somewhat cosmetic and an unnecessary strain on our NHS. Despite this, I can safely say that it is one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Not only did a fantastic surgeon, Professor Malata, put me back together in a way that made me resemble the woman I was before cancer - he also saved my life. During the eight-hour operation, he opened my ribcage to access some blood vessels and noticed an unusual lymph node which was removed, sent off for testing, and subsequently discovered was, in fact, cancerous.

If I hadn't chosen to have reconstructive surgery there is little chance that the rogue cancer cells would have been discovered before they were able to journey to the rest of my body and change my outcome dramatically. Although the reoccurrence and subsequent radiotherapy was unpleasant, it pales in significance to the alternative.

I've been extraordinarily lucky and will continue to work with Breast Cancer Now for the rest of my life so that we can raise enough funds to reduce the rates of diagnosis but also, with the help of M&S "ambassadors" such as Twiggy, show the world that we're all confident survivors with our own stories to tell. 

So, the next time you meet someone who has been through breast cancer, ask them how the experience has changed them... their story will no doubt inspire you.

I am not what happened to me, I am what I chose to become - Carl Gustav Jung.

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