Thursday 06 Oct 2022
Maggie's West London
There are a number of people who came into my life and contributed to the domino effect of diagnosing my cancer and saving my life when I was 35.
There was the friend who noticed a lump on my right breast.
We’d been out one night and back at home when we were getting changed out of our raving gear, she pointed to it and said “You have to get that checked, it’s glowing!”
There was the doctor, who told me that she was 99% sure it was a cyst but she would refer me to the hospital anyway.
There was the sonographer who took a biopsy at my ultrasound. Thank god she did.
Just a few days later, I had a phone call asking me to come in.
I was told, “It's not good news, it's triple negative breast cancer and we need to start chemotherapy straight away”.
I would go on to have a mastectomy. I also have the BRCA1 gene, so my ovaries and fallopian tubes would be removed as a precaution, inducing menopause.
The dominoes had all fallen.
I came into Maggie’s after my first chemo. I was so taken aback by the building and the greenery, right alongside one of the busiest roads in West London.
I felt like I was going into some sort of retreat, going from the hospital where everything is very sterile-looking.
You don't get a cushion on your seat in hospital, and you can’t switch off in the chemo room, but I could at Maggie’s.
I came in and just said “Hi, I’ve got cancer”, still not quite believing it. I met a lady who had already been through everything I was about to go through.
She was so vibrant and warm, which meant so much to me. Plus, she had really good hair!
I started to come in at every opportunity and do every class and activity.
I could stop running when I got to Maggie’s and take a breath. It felt like being moored to a place.
When I finished treatment and it had been successful, I thought I would grow new hair, get new boobs and be all glowing and wonderful. It didn’t happen like that.
After having my ovaries removed, I had a crash of oestrogen and felt like a completely different person.
The menopause for me was harder than the cancer, it was too much. I wanted to be out of my body.
The brain fog made me feel like I was pushing a pile of rubbish up a mountain every day. I was so hot, sweaty, irritable and depressed.
I just kept waiting for my real self to come back.
People can’t resist commenting that it’s ‘such a shame’ if you’ve had your ovaries removed as a young woman.
Not having a partner or a job, or the choice to have children made me feel unmoored.
Even though I was over the cancer, the menopause made me feel like I was broken again. But I could break at Maggie’s.
I’d come in sweating a few times a week. I met others going through menopause, and I found a lot of perspective. I could find the funny side and laugh about it when I spoke to others too.
The tranquillity and peacefulness of Maggie’s just helped me to align and collect myself.
Even though I was sweating, it helped me take a step back and realise it was OK.
I’d come in feeling like a sad and lost soul. But I always walked out of Maggie’s feeling stronger than when I went in.
I didn’t have any interest in dating or sex for years. But getting my hormone replacement therapy (HRT) sorted finally made me feel like I've got this.
I tried many different types of HRT - it’s important to find out what’s right for you and talk about your symptoms.
I feel strong enough now to get back in the game; intimacy and sex are an option again, now that I’m not an inferno all the time. I’m in a much better place physically and mentally.
If you or someone you love has cancer, Maggie’s is here with you.
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