I am honoured to share Emily Beckloff’s post on her brush with breast cancer. I hope it encourages all to check their breasts more frequently. Thank you Emily for sharing your story-
I woke up on the morning of my daughter’s birthday, just before Christmas, and noticed some changes to my left breast. The blood rushed from my face and my world came crashing down around my ears. Cancer. Please, not today.
I tried to put it out of my mind, but a thick black cloud had swallowed me. My heart and mind were heavy: fear of not coping with what was to come, fear of how I was going to look after everyone and fear of dying without seeing my beautiful young children grow up. I was devastated. I watched my birthday girl twirling and laughing with her friends and I watched her brothers so excited for her on her special day.
All I wanted to do was hold them all so tightly and for everything to be OK. How would I tell them?
My Mum had breast cancer, as did two of her sisters and her Aunt. My Mum was the only one not to survive. I’m classed as ‘high risk’ and have annual mammograms, care of our wonderful NHS. I’ve always said, ‘it’s not a case of IF I get it, but when.’ I kept reminding myself that so many people are absolutely fine, some 20 or 30 years after treatment and are still going strong, but would this be me? To even contemplate ‘The End’ when you have three young children, you’ve just started a new and exciting phase of your life and you feel totally well is literally shattering. The loneliness.
I tucked my kids into bed and looked at them, my heart breaking in two when I realised I might not see them grow that much older than they are now. This was just all wrong.
My mammogram was seven days later, right in the middle of that awful week where so many of our iconic celebrities died, and on the anniversary of my Mum’s death. A few days later I had the dreaded call I’d been expecting: could I come in for an ultrasound and a biopsy on my right breast? My right breast?? I hadn’t been worried about that side! All that worry over Christmas and the New Year and yet they wanted to investigate the other side. I couldn’t decide if this was a good thing or not but take note everyone, not everything we find ourselves is a problem!
Four weeks later, following an ultrasound and two biopsies, I was told I had one ‘benign’ area and one area with ‘Ductal Carcinoma In Situ’ (DCIS), which is non-invasive and actually classified as ‘pre cancer.’ DCIS may or may not turn into invasive cancer but it’s surgically removed just in case. What a relief compared to what I’d been thinking! I needed more scans and more biopsies and the fear of what we might discover at each hospital visit was debilitating.
Now, ten weeks on from that first morning, I’m having a lumpectomy tomorrow (on Mum’s birthday). A third area visible on MRI will also be investigated in more detail, though initial biopsies have shown it to be benign (yay!). If more DCIS is found, I‘ll need to go back and have a mastectomy, which I’m kinda OK with. I’d much rather be over treated than under. I’m obviously hoping the pathology lab report done on what’s removed doesn’t reveal ‘invasive cancer’ but I won’t know for another two weeks. I may need more surgery, radiotherapy or chemo…or nothing!
The most overwhelmingly helpful thing for me has been the support of my wonderful friends. It’s impossible to know how to be for a friend in times like this and all credit to them: they asked me what I need, so I told them! I told them I need positivity, distraction, normality, to listen…. and they’ve done all of that and more. They’ve met me for daily coffees, they’ve looked after my chickenpox ridden child so my husband could be with me at an appointment, they’ve asked me on a daily basis how I’m feeling about things, they’ve unpicked the negative and helped me to turn my mind back round to the positive and they’ve been upbeat and positive. I’m so grateful to them.
There are people facing far more difficult situations and diagnoses than me and I feel a total fraud for getting as overwhelmed as I have at times about this. Listening to my own advice though: ‘a stress is a stress.’ We all react differently and cope in different ways and that really is ok.
This process hasn’t been as bad or invasive on my daily life as I’d feared and after a very rocky few weeks, I’ve actually felt normal and happy much of the time, which is not something I was expecting!
1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime BUT survival is getting better all the time! The more journeys we can read about, the less fear I hope we’ll all feel should we hear the ‘C’ word, or dip into the journey ourselves. The statistics show more positive than negative outcomes and that’s what we must focus on!
*Please check your breasts. Today.
If you have women in your family who have had breast cancer, please go to your GP and ask to be referred for Family Screening. Please do your research on whether or not annual mammograms would be right for you at your age. Please get any breast changes or anything your concerned about checked out, as early diagnosis makes a huge difference!
Emily Beckloff works for Father Christmas at the International Elf Service. She’s also a registered Osteopath and a Mum to three young children, including a wonderful little boy who has Down’s Syndrome. Her second post on the ‘power of kindness’ is published on Cuddle Fairy’s blog HERE.
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