Breast cancer: How would you cope?

We all think breast cancer won’t happen to us. But it did to chief reporter Sally-Anne Stewart’s mother-in-law June.

At the start of Breast Cancer Awareness month, here is her story.

THIS was not supposed to happen.

At 62, I was used to having breast lumps checked and being sent away reassured.

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Thirty years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child, I’d found a lump in my right breast. Investigations showed it was fibrous tissue. Phew - I was going to see my unborn child grow up!

I had more lumps over the years and became almost casual about them.

In June I found another lump. “Here we go again,” I thought, and even considered not bothering to check it out. But of course I did.

Now I was in the breast clinic having a biopsy. There was something unusual on the scan and I knew this time I was not going home with the usual message: “You’re fine.”

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The biopsy was followed by a meeting with a doctor and Macmillan nurse. They were already warning me it was likely to be cancer.

My husband and I were left shell shocked.

The follow-up confirmed I had Grade 2 breast cancer. Terrified, I heard only the cancer diagnosis.

Thankfully, my husband registered the next statement: “It’s small, it’s been found early and we can sort it out.”

This marked the beginning of a terrifying journey all too many women have to face.

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There was no guarantee that I was going to survive, even though so many do. And no amount of reassurance or anecdotal evidence seemed to help.

I dreaded telling my loved ones, not wanting them to feel the fear and hurt that I did.

I was advised to take a step at a time and this is what I have done. But I have not been alone – with my husband, family, friends and some great professionals walking alongside me, I have come a long way in three months.

After a quadrantectomy (partial mastectomy) and lymph node biopsy, it seems that the lump was small and all the surrounding tissue is clear of cancer cells.

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I will be taking hormones for the next five years and will be monitored carefully.

But it’s the next stage I find most daunting.

I’m not blessed with natural optimism, but thankful that those around me are.

I know I am very raw emotionally and that it may be months before peace of mind is restored.

But I take reassurance from other breast cancer survivors who tell me that eventually the periods of vulnerability recede and confidence returns.

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