Hi, my name is Michelle and I am 44 years young and live in Ramsgate, Kent with my husband and our 2 rescue cats, Starla & Selene (I know, pretentious names for cats, blame my husband haha!) We have lived along the Kent coast for 19 years after moving from South Africa and thoroughly enjoy it here. In my spare time I love to bake or venture out with my camera and explore!
Tell us a bit about yourself:
Your diagnosis:I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer on 13th Aug 2019 at the age of 42. I had initially found a lump in the shower and thought it was due to my cycle. The lump grew quite quickly and became more of a mass. I saw the doctor within a few weeks of finding the lump and was diagnosed within 2 weeks. I was very numb after being told; it didn’t sink in for a while. After walking out of the hospital with a folder full of brochures and leaflets I felt like I had just come out of a travel agent!
What treatment(s) did you go through?I had a few lumps in the end with the largest of 53mm and lymph node involvement. Due to the cancer being grade 3 and fast growing my oncologist wanted me to start the chemo as soon as possible. After all my MRI and CT scans, I started the treatment 5 weeks later. Chemo was from the 17th September 2019 to 6th March 2020 with 3 different drugs (EC, carboplatin and paclitaxel).
I had a left mastectomy and axillary node clearance on the 1st April (April fools haha!). I had 27 lymph nodes removed and all were cancer free, so the chemo did its job! I had quite a bit of time to recover before I started Radiotherapy in June. I had 15 sessions to my chest wall and supraclavicular lymph nodes.
Do you have any tips for ladies that are about to go through the same?Take it one day at a time. In the beginning I was very numb and then I read all the info I was given and I had information overload and started to panic and feel overwhelmed. I then decided to focus on my treatment one day at a time and not to look into any info on my operation or radiotherapy for instance, until I was due to start treatment. It helped me be more focused and helped me to be kinder to myself and realise it was ok to have bad days and not beat yourself up about it.
During chemo, I did get out walking on my good days and this did help me loads. It made me feel I had accomplished something that week even if it was a slow walk around the block.
I started a diary to log all my treatments and appointments and I wrote down every week what was happening and how I felt. This helped me feel more grounded especially writing down my feelings which I don’t usually do. I kept this going after my active treatment ended as I was still dealing with fatigue and the usual aches and pains.
Was there a charity or any other support group that has helped you?
- Breast Cancer Now were great. I used the “Someone like me” programme a couple of times and I downloaded their app BECCA to help with symptoms.
- I joined a blog on Cancer Research UK. I made quite a few friends and we kept in touch throughout our treatment especially as we were all ‘Triple negative’ we could relate to each other with regards to our worries, concerns, side effects etc without worrying our loved ones too much.
- I would also recommend the OWise app. I found this later in my treatment whilst having radiotherapy. This app is very informative with all details of cancer treatment and advice. You can also log all your appointments and create a virtual diary, so it’s great to record all details in one place.
- Look Good Feel Better workshop. I was very chuffed to get a place in the workshop whilst undergoing chemo as I was truly lacking eyelashes and eyebrows. The workshop was very informative and lovely to meet other ladies going through treatment. I also received a great bag full of excellent products.
- The Lewis Foundation. They found me on Instagram and sent me a pamper pack which was perfect timing for me starting radiotherapy. They are a husband-and-wife team that visit patients in hospital undergoing treatment. I was so chuffed to receive this pack as I am based in Kent and not local to them.
Are there any products you recommend for ladies that are about to have chemo or a surgery?During chemo it helped taking Laxido and Senokot as I really struggled with constipation even though I ate healthy and drank loads of water. My skin was quite dry so I would recommend Aveeno moisturiser.
With my mastectomy it really helped having a heart shaped pillow. I was lucky enough to have one given to me from my local hospital. It really helped when sitting and sleeping. I went home with a drain for 7 days and used a tote bag to carry my drain bag in. So it would be useful if you can have a drain bag made or like me use a tote bag.