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I’m 27 and I live in Shropshire. Earlier in the year, in January of 2020, I noticed a hardening lump in my left breast. I wasn’t concerned about it at all, I’ve never really checked my breasts before, and it wasn’t something I was doing regularly so I wasn’t concerned – but I noticed it was something different, something new and I mentioned it to my fiancé. I left it and didn’t do anything about it for maybe six weeks.
I didn’t go to the doctors until the end of March, which was right at the height of COVID-19 and at the beginning of our first lockdown.
They checked it and referred me to the breast clinic – Shrewsbury and Telford Breast Clinic. I got a referral in two weeks to go and see the team there. At Telford, I had the breast screening. The ultrasound quickly turned into a biopsy, and at that point, that’s when the alarm bells started ringing. I was just supposed to have an ultrasound and within probably 30 seconds they decided they wanted to do a biopsy on the lump. They did it, it got sent away and I had to wait two weeks. After the ultrasound, the doctors spoke to me and she told me to prepare for either news. At that point, I didn’t even think cancer, but I think I was starting to get worried.
At five weeks I had my appointment at Telford basically telling me that I had breast cancer. I had to go alone, which was horrible. It was strange because I almost knew – they asked me if I was on my own and then said that I could go and get Dave if I wanted to. At that point, you think “okay yeah, it’s going to be bad news”.
The Doctor who told me that it was breast cancer. They just gave me the opportunity to ask any questions and what their idea of my plan going forward would be. My main questions I asked was: will I lose my hair? Will I be able to have children? And will I be able to carry on working? Why I chose those questions I will never know but those are the three things that entered my mind.
They obviously said “yes, you will lose your hair” and they referred me to the fertility unit to have that side of things looked at. They did say that people do work, and people do carry on, so those are sort of the only things I had at that point.
I first came to Lingen Davies at Shrewsbury in July time. I’d had my surgery and I was ready to start the next part of my journey. I spoke with the Oncologist there and we discussed what the plan would be going forward. Naturally, this was going to be chemotherapy because of the nature of the cancer that I have, radiotherapy followed by hormone treatments. I sat there and they told me that I was going to have six rounds of chemotherapy and it was going to be a mixture of drugs and you go through the side effects and things like that.
I had one of the nurses, the Breast Care Nurse, with me again from the Oncology Department who sat with me and that was that was really emotional. I think that’s the most emotional I’ve been, but I felt incredibly supported considering that the most emotional I’ve been. I think I think anybody who has a diagnosis, you immediately associate chemotherapy with feeling horrendous, losing your hair, not being yourself and all those changes that it puts your body through. It’s the hardest part of the journey and so when they were telling me what chemotherapy I was going to be on I just got really emotional.
I’m lucky I had six, but it was going to take up four or five months of my life this year and an I was going to ultimately not feel great. That was what they told me – there is no dressing it up, which is fine.
I felt different there. I didn’t feel like how I did when I was at the hospital.
I felt like this is a new part of the journey I was stepping into somewhere that I was going to be for the next four to five months. I got to know my doctor and the nurses as the people I’m going to see every three weeks and then from that, it started what I would call a little family. I know them there and they know me. It was almost like a welcome relief to start that part of the journey and get there and go “okay this is what’s going to happen now, this is the plan”.
It scares me the amount of people that are sitting at home and not being diagnosed – maybe not going to the doctor or maybe not having the swift service I have had from Shrewsbury from Lingen Davies. It’s terrifying to think the ramifications it’s going to have in the future, because it will it, unfortunately. We are in an in a very unprecedented time, but cancer doesn’t wait, and the problem is people are worried that they’re wasting NHS time or their doctors time. I was guilty of this at the beginning. People just have to be brave and know that the NHS is there for you. Hopefully, you don’t have a long referral or wait time, but the problem is if people don’t take action then we are going to see thousands and thousands more diagnoses deaths going forward.
It terrified me to think that people are almost being made to believe that they are wasting time by ringing up and getting something checked out. It’s obviously been a crazy year, and people need to realise that whatever is going on in your body and your health is the priority and you need to get it checked out. COVID or not, cancer will not recover on its own. You have to be treated effectively, so I’m hoping that people listen and go and get checked out.
I know locally a lot of people have raised money for Lingen Davies Cancer Fund, and it’s obviously very close to my heart. I know that I wouldn’t have had the support, the treatment and the care that I’ve had if it wasn’t done through Lingen Davies, supported through donations. I’m definitely thankful for what I’ve had, and I think it’s definitely unique to have that. I feel I have an additional family and that feeling of support. Obviously, there are the nurses, but there’s also Lingen Davis nurses. I’ve never felt like I’m on my own and I’ve never felt that I can’t speak to anyone. That’s made up the huge part of it and I’m really grateful for everything.
Alan lives in Shifnal with his wife Elsa. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in February 2017. He spoke to us about his experience of treatment and how keeping active through his radiotherapy helped his recovery.
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