Read Selin's story: She is a powerful and ambitious 24 year old from London. Diagnosed in July 2020, she is currently in the process of finishing her active treatment.
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name’s Selin, I’m 24 and from London. I’m a script editor specialising in eLearning, interactive media and marketing training, which I absolutely love. In my spare time, I enjoy doing some (very amateur) painting, practising my yoga, reading new books…and I’m also a bit of a video game junkie!
I was 23 when I found my lump, and it was a complete accident. I wasn’t someone who ever checked themselves, so the fact I caught it early was incredibly lucky. It was very early in the morning on a Saturday, about 4am. I had an itch on my breast, and when I went to scratch it, I felt a small but very obvious lump. As someone with health anxiety, I was never the type to sit and see if something goes away, so I got onto the phone and made an appointment with a clinic to have it checked.
The doctor who checked me said it just felt like a fibroadenoma and was nothing to worry about, but suggested I have an ultrasound just to be safe. The radiologist who checked me said she wanted to take a biopsy, and I was shocked. I said, “but he told me it wasn’t cancer”, and all she could tell me was, “yes well, it’s best we go ahead and check anyway”. I realise now that the radiologist already knew, and that the biopsy was a formality more than anything else.
When the doctor came back to tell me the results I completely broke down. I didn’t know or understand much about breast cancer back then, so I assumed the absolute worst.
The time after the diagnosis and letting the news sink in
Strangely, in the days that followed, I felt numb to it all. I’d received a good prognosis and was mostly focused on getting started with treatment. Once that feeling of proactiveness wore off, and it turned into a lot of waiting around, the anxiety started to creep in a bit more. Post-scan anxiety was definitely the worst part of treatment preparations, but I also became very paranoid about the cancer spreading, or my treatments not working. Every slightly swollen lymph node scared me, and every twinge was concerning. It was definitely something I had to learn to manage and navigate so that it didn’t completely consume me.
I was supposed to have 12 weeks of Paclitaxel, but after a bad reaction to the first dose my oncologist switched me to Abraxane, which took a much harsher toll on my body. I was exhausted, lost most of my hair despite using the cold cap, and completely lost my sense of taste. I also received Zoladex injections to shut off my ovaries during chemotherapy which threw me into medical menopause, so I was also battling hot flushes, muscle and joint pain, irritability and nausea. Alongside this I was told I also needed a combination Trastuzumab and Pertuzumab infusions for 18 months, both as a treatment and to help prevent reoccurrence in the future.
When I was trying to decide what type of surgery I wanted, I went back and forth on the idea of a double mastectomy with reconstruction. My gene test had come back negative, and my doctor didn’t feel that I would gain any additional benefit from having a mastectomy vs a lumpectomy. When my anxiety was particularly bad after diagnosis, I was convinced this is what I needed, and that I wouldn’t be able to relax without it. But, as time went on, and I understood my own situation in better detail and found out I’d had a complete pathological response, I felt comfortable with the decision to opt for a lumpectomy and try to get back to normality as quickly as possible.
For anyone who is about to embark on this journey, please know that there is a whole community of amazing ladies out there waiting to support you and help you along. Instagram became my safe space and made it easy to connect with people my own age, and others who were going through similar treatments. If you’re a younger breast cancer patient like me, Rethink Breast Cancer provides a platform for young ladies going through the same thing. I also want to stress that you should make use of your support nurse. Mine was absolutely amazing and held my hand through the entire experience. They’re there specifically to help you navigate this journey, so don’t feel bad about leaning on them when you need to.
I used a cold cap to try and save my hair but didn’t realise this process also works on other parts of the body. Unfortunately, I didn’t know this before I started so I can’t comment on its effectiveness, but I know many women who sucked on ice and kept their hands and feet in ice packs during their infusions, who managed to save their nails and avoid ulcers. There’s also research that suggests keeping your nails out of sunlight might help, so painting them black is a good idea.
If you’re anxious about the thought of losing your hair, buy yourself at least one piece of headwear that you love, and have it on hand. Even if you use the cold cap, you are likely to lose some hair, and this will feel less daunting if you know you have a pretty accessory to reach for when you need it. If you buy any wigs and have trouble with the hairline, or don’t wait to pay a fortune for high end options, wearing a hat instantly makes any wig look more natural and realistic!
For your surgery, take clothes that button up so that you don’t have to lift your arms to get dressed, and invest in a good quality surgery bra that fastens at the front to make life easier.
Here in London, we’re still in lockdown because of COVID, which has prevented me from being able to really get back out there and rebuild aspects of my pre-cancer life, but I’m planning on moving in with my partner soon which is exciting and is definitely something I’m looking forward to. With the distribution of vaccines, I’m hoping that by summer it will be safe to plan some trips and hotel getaways, even if we have to stay in England. I’d also love to have some downtime at a retreat and get back to trying new classes and activities!
If there’s one thing I wish I had known before my diagnosis, it’s how resilient we are as human beings - much more than we give ourselves credit for. As a hypochondriac, this was something I’d feared for most of my life, and I just assumed that if it ever happened, the world would stop turning. It might feel like that at first, but I promise that navigating the process becomes easier and more manageable with each step you take. I think immersing yourself in a community of inspirational women, whether it be online or in person, also makes the whole journey much less daunting to face. However alone you might feel, I promise you are not.
Your favourite Nicola Jane product
My favourite Nicola Jane product has to be the Lynn bra. It’s so comfortable and I pretty much lived in it for days following my surgery. The zip at the front makes getting dressed much easier when you can’t really lift your arms! Now that I’ve healed, I still wear it as a workout top because it’s so comfy and stylish. It was nice finding a product that I enjoyed wearing, and that had thought put into its shape and appearance. Sometimes “medical products” don’t make you feel very sexy or confident, especially when they’re produced with a “one size fits all” approach. It was great to find a company that kept women in mind when creating a diverse range of mastectomy and lumpectomy friendly clothing!
The reason you have decided to share your story with other ladies
I hope that by sharing my story, it will encourage young people to check themselves regularly, because catching breast cancer early makes all the difference, and I don’t think that young people realise that the risk exists for them too, even if it doesn’t run in the family and you’re not a gene carrier.
Written By Guest Blogger
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