Katherine on tiredness from treatment

Tuesday 29 March 2022

Maggie's Edinburgh

Katherine was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer on the third day of the first lockdown in 2020. Here, she tells us how Maggie's played a crucial part in her treatment plan during such a confusing time.

My diagnosis

During the first days of the pandemic, I was landed with an additional piece of news: I now had cancer. I was turning 30 in two weeks.

In the hospital, things were changing constantly. Staff were being redeployed; systems changed overnight.

My breast care nurse knew that Maggie’s were able to provide on-going support, and that was a guarantee.

My diagnosis was stage three, grade three breast cancer, HER-2 positive and hormone negative.

On the day I was diagnosed, I was told my treatment would be completed in nine months. But by the time it finished, my treatment had lasted 18 months.

I had ten rounds of chemotherapy before surgery, which was a lumpectomy and auxiliary clearance, before 19 rounds of radiotherapy. I then started another chemotherapy drug which took me from January to October 2021, another 14 rounds – so 18 months of treatment in all.

There’s an added three years of infusions and injections after this as well.

Things have just constantly changed, and it’s been a challenge to keep up with, emotionally, physically, in every sense.

But Maggie’s has been a very consistent part of an ever-changing treatment plan.

Treatment fatigue

Maggie’s has been a fluid part of my treatment, able to fit into any aspect needed. It’s become what I needed at every stage.

I’ve spoken to Maggie’s a lot about treatment fatigue. I’m not only tired from treatment, but tired of treatment. Those frequent changes in expectation are hard on the body, and harder on the mind. 

There’s only so much one person can go through, and it’s an issue I feel a lot of people may experience, but that isn’t talked about enough.

As I’m in the first wave of people using the drug for primary breast cancer, Andy at Maggie’s and I have been able to feedback to the oncologists on the emotional toll it’s taken.

I have hit an emotional burnout, complete exhaustion from battling ongoing treatment for 18 months.

I’ve used up every single ounce of energy to get through that phase, focusing on the three weekly milestones of the next round of chemo.

Now that it is over, there is no regular milestone, no “In a few days, I’ll feel better and can do more so I’ll plan for that!”, it’s ongoing, a slow recovery and at times I regress and need a few days on the sofa, and other days I surprise myself and have a normal day when I can run around and be busy and active.

Those are my favourite days and the ones I miss the most!

Coming through treatment

I've spoken to a couple of people I know who have had cancer and come out the other side, and they have said with glee “Oh, do you feel different yet? No? It’ll come!" I don’t feel different yet, but I’m hopeful it will come.

For those people ten years down the line who say they feel different, is it a self-fulfilling prophecy, an unwritten rule from one cancer patient to another, by being asked, is it likely that I will feel different?

If it’s not, I like the idea that it could be.

I’ve learnt to focus on the positive, and push through some truly awful and challenging times. This is a lesson I will take forward.

There’s a weird part of me that’s glad it’s happened. I just don’t feel stressed out by the same things I used to.

What’s to fear? I’ve already had cancer. I have a new perspective. I have this understanding now that if anything’s going to happen, there’s nothing I can do, and it’s completely out of my control, and I just have to accept it…and that’s pretty cool.

Looking forward 

I’ve moved back into the flat that I moved out of just before my diagnosis and the things that used to bother me don’t.

I have new life goals, I want things to be more fulfilling. I want to focus on what’s important to me.

There will continue to be unknowns, of course, but when I think about the future now, I know there’s a new balance I need to get right between incorporating cancer into my life and not letting it dictate it.

I have to remember that it’s there, but also use that as an encouragement to do exactly what I want to do. 

I’m in a new relationship, and I’ve been travelling for three months.

Finally, after 18 months of feeling life pass me by, I can look up and see it’s there for the taking.

We're here for you

If you or someone you love has cancer, Maggie's is with you. 

Come and see us at your nearest Maggie’s, call us on 0300 123 180 or email us at enquiries@maggies.org.

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