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I Don't Know How Much Time I Have Left With My Daughter

10/10/2016 16:52 | Updated 11 October 2016
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It was June 2014. I had been married for six months and life was good. Then, I found a lump in my breast and was asked to come to our local hospital for the results of a biopsy. As we sat waiting my husband seemed really nervous, but I just felt that the results couldn't possibly be bad news. How could they? I was 31, fit and healthy.

When the doctor said: "I'm sorry, but it is breast cancer", I just couldn't believe it. The very next thing she said was that they would look to 'cure me completely'. This was what I hung onto as we shared the news with friends and family: 'They are going to cure me.'

I went through nine months of both physically and emotionally gruelling treatment.

As treatment came to an end I began to feel like myself again and started looking forward to the future. It wasn't easy to relax completely, as in the back of your mind you have this fear that the cancer isn't done with you yet. It's hard to be rational about aches and pains - is this a headache or a brain tumour?

I had an A4 sheet explaining what symptoms to look out for, but it meant I would have to be the judge of what needed to be checked out. Without regular oncology appointments I felt like I didn't have a safety net.

In September 2015 I began to experience a pain in my chest. It wasn't getting better with pain killers and I couldn't pick up my three-year-old daughter Phoebe. My GP reassured me that it was most likely a pulled muscle.

When I saw my oncologist again in November, ready to be discharged completely, he decided to do an MRI scan - just to be safe. When I came to the results appointment and saw the breast care nurse waiting with him, I knew. I knew what he was going to tell me and I started to shake.

The scan showed I had a 2.5cm cancerous area in my breast bone; that my cancer had spread and reached stage four. It was incurable.

Telling my husband and parents about my secondary breast cancer diagnosis was the hardest thing I have ever done. I felt I was breaking their hearts for the second time, and this time there wasn't that hope that it could go away.

After being diagnosed with secondary breast cancer there was no sense of immediate action. My treatment now is much more about watching and waiting, living from scan to scan. I sometimes feel as though I've been written off.

That's why I'm campaigning with Breast Cancer Care to make sure that women like me living with incurable secondary breast cancer can be certain they will get the care and support they need.

My oncologist says that now it's about balancing quality of life with quantity. For me, I just want quantity. I owe that to Phoebe.

My biggest fear is not being there for her as she grows up. She's just started school, a huge milestone. I want to enjoy these special moments but they also make me fearful for those I might miss.

Now that Phoebe's older and the cancer has spread to my liver, I'll have to be more honest with her, particularly as I'm now having chemotherapy for the second time.

We've had to take advice on the best way to explain things to her and we are slowly introducing the proper words to try and 'normalise' what's happening to me. We want to make this whole process as easy for her as possible but it's a very strange thing to hear her ask about "mummy's cancer".

I don't want to scare Phoebe. I don't want to be the cause of her sadness. Children are inherently hopeful, and telling her I will never get better seems unbelievably cruel.

I'm making a memory box for her, filling it with photos, CDs, letters and a diary I kept when I was pregnant. There's also embarrassing things like an old school report and a home-movie I shot with my housemates at university. I want her to remember me.

I am hoping that I can keep my cancer stable for a long time. The total uncertainty of my future means that although I can keep trying to be positive I must also prepare myself and my family for the worst. I jokingly quiz my husband on household trivia, like how often he should change the bed sheets.

It's not always easy to be honest with loved ones, as I sometimes worry I'll upset them. When I was diagnosed, my breast care nurse put me in touch with the local monthly meeting run by Breast Cancer Care, specifically for women with secondary breast cancer.

Talking openly with women going through the same thing gives me hope. These women offer so much advice and support, and together we can laugh and joke. I hope to go on laughing and joking for many more years to come.

When time is uncertain, women with secondary breast cancer need to be certain of your support. Act today to help them get the care they deserve, visit breastcancercare.org.uk/secondary

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