In November 2012 my whole world fell apart when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The previous week I had visited my GP as I had found a lump on my breast. My GP advised me not to worry about it and said it was more than likely a cyst. I took her advice as I was getting married a couple of days later and didn't have time to worry. I had a wonderful wedding. My four-year-old son walked me down the aisle and the whole weekend was beautiful.
I had a mammogram the Wednesday after my wedding. I took my book along with me and was actually quite looking forward to a few hours waiting around and relaxing after a hectic couple of months planning the wedding. I thought I wouldn't get the results for a couple of weeks so I told my husband not to bother coming and to go to work.
I had the mammogram and then I was called in for an ultrasound. The consultant sat next to me on the bed and said "I'm afraid it is bad news" to which I replied "but I only got married on Saturday!". As if that made a difference! I was in complete shock.
The next week or so was horrendous. All our friends were on a high from having such a good time at the wedding and it was horrible for my husband, who had to tell everyone. On the evening I was diagnosed I made my husband go out to deliver thank you cards and wedding cake! I cried myself to sleep every night because I thought I was going to die. I couldn't imagine not being around for my four-year-old son. I then started worrying about how my husband would cope without me.
I was given a treatment plan including surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It wouldn't start until the New Year so I had to endure an awful Christmas wondering if it would be my last. I went through all the motions at Christmas but I retreated from everyone and l felt like an outsider looking in. It was awful, an agonising wait.
I had my surgery in early January and three weeks later I took advantage of Breast Cancer Care's Younger Women's Forum, which is a two day course specifically aimed at women under 45 with breast cancer. The course was held in Bristol, which was a bit of a trek for me but I felt it was the ideal time for me to attend as I wanted to meet other younger women with breast cancer. At the time of diagnosis I felt really isolated. I didn't know anyone who had gone through treatment for breast cancer so it was absolutely wonderful to go on the course and meet other women in the same situation. Some of the girls who attended had been treated a few years before, others were going through treatment and some had just been diagnosed. I met some wonderful women and the sessions provided by Breast Cancer Care were extremely useful and helped put my mind at ease.
The chemotherapy was awful and I hated losing my eyebrows and lashes - I looked like Mr Potato head! I felt so ugly when stripped of my brows and lashes and even with makeup I still looked incredibly ill. However my hair loss wasn't a massive issue for me. I could hide that under a hat! I wanted to be in control so I cut off all my hair and donated it to a charity that makes wigs for children with cancer. I then did a sponsored head shave and raised £2,000 for Breast Cancer Care. A few days after I shaved my head my son came up to me and said "do you know what Mummy, I don't mind you with your hair like that." He is amazing.
My treatment finished in July and I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am about this Christmas. I had bought all my presents by the end of October! The atmosphere in our household will be completely different to last year when we had a big dark cloud looming above us. We have a Santa Cruise booked on the 23 December and a pantomime on 24 December! I now have hair, eyebrows and lovely long lashes and I feel 'normal' again. I still have some side effects from the treatment but so what, I can deal with them. The important thing is that I am alive and I cannot begin to tell you how happy that makes me feel. As for the future, I am taking each day as it comes and making the most of the here and now.
There are half a million UK women living today who have had a breast cancer diagnosis and Breast Cancer Care is the only specialist breast cancer support charity across the UK. Show your support this Christmas and attend Breast Cancer Care's Carols by Candlelight service at St Paul's Cathedral on Tuesday 17 December. www.breastcancercare.org.uk/carols