Fourteen months after she finished her treatment, Sarah Pickles looks back on the day she found out she had triple negative breast cancer.
The door handle started to turn. I knew this was the moment that could change my life forever.
The surgeon appeared with another staff member. He introduced himself and then introduced Sally, a breast care nurse. He started to go through my notes: family history, the results of the mammogram and the biopsy. Then he delivered the devastating news: ‘I’m really sorry but the mammogram has shown two tumours in the left breast.’
I felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach. Any emotion I had held back came out all at once. I never thought I would be given the news that I had breast cancer at 32. Until that moment my life was pretty much perfect – mother to a beautiful little girl, wife to a wonderful man and a career that I loved.
Understanding my diagnosis
Just when I thought my diagnosis couldn’t get any worse, I had an appointment to see the oncologist who gave me the news that I had a stage 3, grade 3, triple negative breast cancer.
The room blurred with my tears as the specialist explained that triple negative breast cancer can’t be treated with some common treatments such as hormone therapy or Herceptin. This meant that chemotherapy would be the only option to treat my cancer.
I felt sick and, although I didn’t really understand what it meant (most of the information was very scientific), I did think: I’m going to die.
My oncologist told me about a drug that was being trialled in people with triple negative breast cancer called carboplatin. It’s thought that this drug may reduce the risk of triple negative cancer coming back, especially within the first two to three years when the risk is higher. However, the downside was this drug came with a range of possible side effects, from nausea and vomiting to infertility and hair loss. However, I didn’t let this put me off as I was willing to try anything that was going to give me a better chance of survival.
In the end my side effects were minimal – I just felt like I had a severe hangover for seven days.
Looking for the positives
Something I realised through talking about my own diagnosis was that most people didn’t understand the seriousness of it until I explained it in more detail.
As time has gone on I have met more ladies (young and old) with this type of cancer on my butterfly cancer support group. It has been lovely to connect and chat with people who understand and support one another.
Despite the emotions that were coursing through me when I was given the diagnosis, I made the decision that, no matter what, I would not let the cancer take control of me. I would be in control and would look for the positive in every aspect of my journey.
It’s now 14 months since I finished treatment. I’m still here and getting used to the ‘new normal’ of life after breast cancer.
Sarah’s book, The Shock Factor, is out on 11 October 2016. For information about Sarah’s monthly events, including a ‘Christmas snowflake and sparkle’ on 11 December, visit her Facebook page.