Throughout Breast Cancer Awareness Month you will see lots of articles awash with pink and telling us all to check for lumps. But when you are diagnosed with breast cancer, it is a complete shock, you know very little about what to expect and how your life will be affected.
It was April 2010 when I first noticed a change in my breast - unlike many women diagnosed I didn't have a lump, my breast started to get very red, inflamed and increasingly painful. It got to the point where I couldn't even do things for myself such as pick up the kettle. I knew something was wrong but never suspected breast cancer - I was just 41, it wasn't even on my radar at the time.
When I went to the doctor a few days later, he immediately referred me to the breast care unit for more tests.
Five month later and after many tests, I was told I had breast cancer, specifically a rare form called inflammatory breast cancer. I was reassured though when the consultant said: "We've seen this kind of thing before, do as we say and you will be fine". This really stuck with me and I kept this in mind all the way through my treatment.
Over the next few months I embarked upon gruelling treatment including surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I had days where my hair fell out in clumps, where I felt absolutely exhausted from chemotherapy.
I was also put on the drugs Herceptin and Tamoxifen - I have been taking Tamoxifen for the last four years now and next year will find out if I have to take it for a further five years.
As well as hair loss and fatigue, I also struggled with weight gain. I found all my side effects very difficult to deal with, especially as they continued after my treatment ended. Soon I was having fewer and fewer hospital appointments and my only on going treatment was Tamoxifen, yet I was still struggling with the debilitating effects of the on going breast cancer treatment. I found myself in a strange place where I didn't really have much contact with the hospital anymore but still needed to talk to someone and get information on what to do.
At my hospital they recommended I attend a local group that helped people going through cancer treatment. I decided to go along and met ladies who were also going through breast cancer, just like me. They told me about Breast Cancer Care's support line where you could call and chat to specialist nurses or trained helpline workers about anything related to breast cancer.
It was just after this that I called Breast Cancer Care for the first time. I spoke to one of their nurses about the fatigue I was suffering; particularly as it meant I wasn't able to drive everyday anymore. She was very helpful and organised for Breast Cancer Care to send me one of their leaflets specifically focussed around managing side effects.
It was reassuring to be able to talk to someone who knew what I was going through and understood how much my life had changed. I have called over the years with my different worries and have always come away feeling much better.
You can be years on from your diagnosis but still have lots of worries about breast cancer. This is where Breast Cancer Care comes in as their support is on going. You can call them at any point, when you first discover something is wrong or ten years after you have finished treatment and you are worried about your breast cancer returning. Someone will be there to listen.
For information, care and support from day one, call Breast Cancer Care's nurses on 0808 800 6000 or visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk.