My Cancer Story, So Far.

January 27, 2016

Today I thought I should write about something that a few people might already know about me. Late September last year, I had a routine check at the doctor’s and had some of the worst news one can be told about their health: I had breast cancer.

Let me just say straight away that it hasn’t been easy. It’s never easy to be told that you have something going on inside your body that might slowly kill you. Puts everything into perspective in your life. Some three months down the line, it’s still a difficult concept to handle and I have emotional crisis occasionally. Who wouldn’t?

At the same time, I try to remember that not all is bad. No matter how bad things are, they could always be worse. It’s a fact of life. I tend to catastrophise situations and see them as worse than they are, all in my head. If this happens with smaller things, you can well imagine what will happen in a situation like this. Sometimes it takes a friend to slap me across the head, to remind me that I’m not dead yet and that things could be a lot worse. Recently I felt at my lowest ever since I was diagnosed and I’m happy to report that I’m slowly picking myself back up. I thought I’d make a list of the positives, so I the next time I feel terrible I can read it back and soldier on. it was caught very early and I managed to keep my boob

– It was caught very early and I managed to keep my boob. It was also named Tim the Tumour.

– Recovery from surgery was fairly swift, with no complications – no cording, no horrible scar tissue, no lymphoedema… knock on wood!

– Apart from a very neat scar on my left side, you can barely tell I had a lumpectomy.

– I can’t have any more tattoos on my left arm due to lymph node removal but I managed to get a small last one in before the surgery, on a short trip to Berlin. It’s an Alfa and an Omega if you want to know.

– For the surgery, they injected me with a blue dye, so they could track which lymph nodes to remove. Three months down the line, I still have Smurf boob.

– When they looked at the lymph nodes, they found that I had micrometastases (meaning the cancer cells had spread). This prompted more testing. I had genomic tests done (Oncotype dx) and this was something that took a while to come back. The long wait was painful but in the end, turns out that I  have a low chance of it coming back after treatment is completed.

– Also, I was very lucky that the NHS had only 2 weeks prior approved sponsorship for the test in cases such as mine. That saved me a £2600 bill. I won’t hear anyone say anything bad about the NHS. Never did, never will!

– It’s also comforting to know that there is treatment available these days and the statistics are mostly on my side. (99% of women with a low recurrence score on the test have no recurrences after 5 years of hormone therapy).

– I didn’t need to have chemo, only radiotherapy. This is great because chemo can be a very long and painful process.

– On that note, I also got to keep my hair, to which I’ve taken a liking in the last couple of years. I really can’t see myself wearing short hair again like I used to and this has been a blessing. I would have totally got a pink wig, though. That was my plan, anyway.

– I managed to laugh about this for most of the time. Mostly making fun of myself and Tim the Tumour (the bastard).

– Due to stress and prepping for the surgery and all of that, I took a month off at work. I called it my cancer holiday.

– My father and my sister came over from Portugal for over a week and it was great to be able to spend time with them.

– I got to know and interact with amazingly caring and professional healthcare staff – from consultants, nurses etc. People who really care about their job and making a difference in such a hard time in someone else’s life.

– Because of cancer treatment, I got to freeze my eggs for a rainy day. That way, if I ever decide to have children in a few years, I’ll have younger and better quality eggs to use. Result!

– I got a free tattoo on the NHS. Such a badass.

– I got a kick in the butt and understood better what I want and need in life to be happy. I can also say that I have gained a new understanding of how precious our time on this earth is. It’s a cliché because it’s true. This has been a gift. An expensive one, though, without a doubt.

– Last but not least, all the compassion, love, friendship and help I have since received from friends, family, colleagues, medical staff, and even strangers. Without them, things would’ve been a lot harder. A big thank you to all of you. You know who you are.

This story isn’t over, I still have treatments to do (radiotherapy, starting next week) and will be taking drugs to keep things normal after that (for the next few years, at least).

I guess that there will be more ups and downs but for now, I feel extremely grateful and I am glad that I’ll still be able to stick around for a while longer.


PS: How do you like my boob illustration? I made it on a whim a few weeks ago.

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  • Reply Laura Foulds January 27, 2016 at 21:00

    This post is incredible. I had no idea you had been through this but this post is fantastic. thank you so much for writing it 🙂 xx

    • Reply Claire January 27, 2016 at 21:10

      Oh gosh Sara, this is just so touching. I absolutely love how you’ve broken down this post into more digestible chunks, I felt like when I was reading it, not only were you reassuring yourself but you were also reassuring your reader and I thank you. To say you’re an inspiration may be a bit of a cliche but it’s true none the same, you’re right that there are always others worse off but don’t ever let that take away from how strong you are and how far you’ve come. I really wish you all the best on your road to recovery and just want to say a big thank you for sharing this important post *shakes fist at Tim the Tumour*

      P.S. Your illustration is kickass 😉

      Claire xo

  • Reply Claire January 28, 2016 at 06:29

    What a beautiful post, Sara. Thank you for sharing what’s been going on so candidly and openly, I’m so glad that you are doing well. I love the boob illustration too, and will hope to catch up with you in real life before long.

  • Reply Kirsty London January 28, 2016 at 10:08

    This was such an incredible post to read. It was so open and even though I can’t imagine the reality of what you’ve been through/going through, I wish you so much love and good luck for the future. Also, it was amazing that you included humor throughout this post…I would have never thought I’d smirk at someone saying they have a smurf boob…but here I am smirking away!

    I also never thought I’d say this to anyone but I’m happy you got to keep your boob.

    PS. You’re right, you’re a total badass for your NHS tattoo and this post.

  • Reply Miranda January 28, 2016 at 10:24

    SO glad things are on the mend!!! Hoping for a bright future your way, and you lucky lady, for having your eggs frozen, if you ever consider having a baby that is something really good!! Yay for your courage, Sara.

  • Reply Jo January 28, 2016 at 11:20

    Amazing post, massive massive love and healthy vibes coming your way. More people should look at life like you. I also share your views of the NHS, I have nothing but love after an emergency C-section saved mine and my boys life. Go girl <3 <3 <3

  • Reply Charlie Elliott January 28, 2016 at 12:39

    Oh Sara, I’ve always known you were a wonderful human being but this has just cemented your total badass awesomeness. My dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer a few years ago but similarly it was caught very early and he only had to have radiotherapy thankfully. I’m so glad that you’re coming through this and I’m sending you lots of love xxxx

  • Reply Diane January 28, 2016 at 14:34

    Wow, lovely post. I’m so glad you’re ok and they caught it early. The NHS is definitely an awesome thing. Congrats on being so brave – and love the illustration 🙂 x

  • Reply Emma January 29, 2016 at 11:26

    This is beautifully written and you are a shining star! My beloved Grandad currently has kidney and lung cancer, a close friend has breast cancer and another skin cancer. You are all doing incredibly well and should be proud of yourselves. It’s a hard battering time, but keep writing because you’re fab! X

  • Reply Leanne January 29, 2016 at 14:35

    Glad to hear you are on the mend & hope 2016 is a happy, healthy year for you 🙂 x

  • Reply Rhiân January 31, 2016 at 13:40

    Wow, Sara. I had my breath taken away by this post. I can’t even imagine going through what you have never mind managing to stay so positive and forward thinking. You are truly an inspiration, and have put all my doubts into perspective this afternoon.

    Wishing you all the love, and good health while you still recover. You’re such a boss babe!

    Rhi xo

  • Reply Laura February 1, 2016 at 13:47

    What a great, inspiring post! I can’t imagine how hard it must be to hear that C word diagnosis – I don’t think I would be able to man up and get on with it. I always imagine that I would be a snivelling, crying wreck for weeks on end. As a member of front-line staff, it’s so great to hear such positives about the NHS – I am so used to reading / hearing about how ‘shit’ it is, so feedback like yours is so valuable.

  • Reply sara miriam February 3, 2016 at 00:31

    i knew there was something wrong, but im an airhead on facebook and whatnot so only recenlty i got it.. i still cant believe it though. you always are so quirky and fun, even on this serious subject! you are so brave, really! i think i would be a wreck, but thats just because im usually such an anxious debbie downer. you are such an inspiration sara. tim the tumour chose the wrong lady to mess with 😉

    thanks for sharing this!!

  • Reply Don’t be so hard on yourself | Hello the Mushroom April 10, 2016 at 10:06

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  • Reply Madeline Calahan February 8, 2020 at 18:08

    I had no idea what you’ve been through, but I believe you are amazing! Thank you for sharing such an inspiring story.

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