A few days after my 47th birthday I received a letter asking me to make an appointment to attend a mammogram, I remember thinking you don’t usually have a mammogram before the age of 50 but still made the appointment. It was a Friday morning and I went along to the mobile mammogram at Longbridge before heading off into town. I was a normal healthy 47-year-old woman with no health issues attending a routine screening appointment.
Two weeks later I received an appointment to attend the Breast Screening Unit regarding my results of my mammogram. I just thought they had sent me an appointment by mistake, I had no lump and remember saying to my husband, it’s got to be a mistake I’ve got no lumps, but I was panicking inside because I knew deep down they don’t recall you if your results were normal.
I attended the appointment to be told I had some calcium calcification in my left breast and it might be nothing but I will need to have a biopsy. I was a little worried and shocked as I had never heard of this before. I always thought you had to have a lump. My results were back and I was shocked that I had Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) which needed removing, under general anaesthetic. I was really scared of going under a general anaesthetic as never had an operation under general before.
September 2015 I was due for my yearly mammogram, again, I had no worries, I was healthy, overweight but healthy and just went along had my mammogram and forgot about it, I mean what are the chances of getting DCIS again once it had been taken away? I was never told it may reappear.
Two weeks later I had an appointment to attend the Breast Screening Unit again, this time I was really worried and scared. I was told by my consultant that I had DCIS in my right breast. Having DCIS in both breasts is very rare and I really could not believe it. Another biopsy was taken and the results were not very clear and I had to have another biopsy under general anaesthetic. It was confirmed the DCIS had returned in the right breast.
At this time I was back and forth to the hospital every week for six weeks because either my results were not back or my results were not discussed at the MDT meeting or the consultant didn’t know what had been discussed at the MDT meeting as he hadn’t attended and the consultant who had attended had not written the information in my notes. Eventually, I was told I may be looking at a mastectomy at one appointment and I just broke down crying and remember saying “you want to take my boob”? This is when my life really changed!
I had a lumpectomy in January 2016 and had my appointment for my results. The DCIS had been removed and was told I would need radiotherapy, I seemed to take all the information in but started to feel as though something inside me was dying, I changed, I would cry at the slightest thing, I’d be watching television and tears would be running down my face for no reason.
My radiotherapy started in March 2016 I attended my appointments every day for three weeks, I was just going through the motions at this point, I would drive there go in get changed wait to be called, have the treatment (which was making my breast red and very sore) and then come home this was the same everyday for three weeks.
Before I knew it, it was that time again! September 2016 my appointment for my yearly mammogram, I was feeling really anxious, scared but it had to be done. This time I didn’t wait for my results I phoned my consultants secretary for my results it seemed like forever waiting for them, think the secretaries were fed up of me phoning but I needed to know as it was becoming an obsession, constantly on my mind. I kept phoning and being told my results weren’t back. Eventually I was told the results and again it wasn’t good. I was at work and just broke down crying, the girls at work were used to me being in tears by now and they really were my rock, as we are a small team and very close. They had found something again and thought it was scar tissue. I had three biopsies and waiting for the results was a living nightmare.
I was feeling as though I couldn’t move forward because I was always waiting for results from mammogram, results from biopsies, just going for the biopsies was very upsetting and after I would feel so drained. All I could think about was my breasts and what was going to happen next.
December 2016 had a lumpectomy and had really had enough by now. My relationship with my husband was beginning to suffer he was always worrying I was always crying or not talking or listening just felt like my body was there and everything in life was going on around me. I was missing things with my children as my son had left school and needed my support with finding a college course and my mom was worried and I just felt I was no good to anyone.
Christmas 2016 I had a long hard think about my situation and discussed my decision with my husband, my mom and my children, I had decided to opt for a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. This was not an easy decision and the nights I’d wake up crying in the middle of the night worrying about how having a mastectomy will affect my relationship with my husband and how he would see me, or would he even fancy me without my own breasts? But I really shouldn’t have worried as my husband reassured me and stood by me and said he loved me with or without breasts.
January 2017 had an appointment with my consultant and told him of my decision, again, I was in tears I felt I was having a breakdown, I could not cope any longer and I think my consultant could see this. My consultant said he would take my decision to the MDT meeting to be discussed. January I started to develop haematomas (blood clots) in my right breast that needed draining and was very sore. My consultant told me they had discussed my case at the MDT meeting and they all agreed I could have my mastectomy with reconstruction. I cannot tell you how that felt, knowing there was going to be an end to this nightmare but really scared at the same time because this is now happening!
I’ve had people say this was a brave decision, but I had no choice really. If you have had radiotherapy you cannot have radiotherapy on the same breast again, there was no option really.
Surgeons: At the edge of life, starts on Monday 8th January at 9pm on BBC Two.