“It is a cancer and will require a mastectomy” were words I never anticipated hearing and, despite being in the Primrose Breast Care clinic at Derriford Hospital was not the outcome I had imagined. These words started my expedition into the world of becoming a breast cancer patient.
I am a wife, mum, geography teacher and part of the leadership team at an inner city comprehensive in the “Ocean City” of Plymouth in Devon. At the end of the summer holidays in August 2017, after a glorious ten days in Sardinia, on a beautiful, hot morning my husband, Nick, and I went to Mount Batten water sports centre to have a paddle boarding lesson. Once we mastered how to get the wet suits on we joined a mixed bunch of other novices, carried the paddleboards down to River Plym and had two hours of learning a new skill, falling in the water and having fun with a bunch of strangers. Little did we know that on our return home there would be a letter which would have a life changing impact.
Earlier in August 2017 I had been for a routine mammogram. My GP surgery had signed up to an early screening programme so I had had a mammogram at the ages of 47, 50 and almost aged 53. The morning of the mammogram, which was carried out in the Guildhall in Plymouth City Centre, was sunny, it was the school summer holidays and I had plenty of time. The radiographers were busy and the young woman who pushed and squeezed my breasts into the machine told me there were 57 women who would have a similar experience that day. It was routine, matter of fact, brusque even… top off, breasts in, deep breath, arm up, arm around, other side. I met a friend for coffee afterwards, I wasn’t worried, there were no lumps, bumps, lemon skin or puckering on my breasts in fact I fancied they were in pretty good nick.
Tip: Always attend your mammogram appointment – never put it off always go.