This time last year, I was a fit and healthy 30 year old PE teacher, or so I thought. Whilst teaching a year 9 javelin lesson, I noticed an uncomfortable ache in my right breast. I put it down to getting older! A couple of weeks later when running on a treadmill, I had a similar ache. Not pain, just ache. Again, I thought to myself ‘I need some new sports bras.’ On Wednesday 28thMay 2018 whist on holiday in Greece with my mum and brother, I found a lump in my right breast whilst applying after sun. I did not know it at the time but this lump would change my life in many ways.
Three years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I found a lump and went through a couple of weeks of “it’s probably nothing, but let’s just check” before the tests came back. I’d always been a bit active, doing a bit of horse-riding, occasional hill walking and being a constant gym member (although not necessarily always going!). I had my son and meant to get fitter but it’s difficult with a baby to look after and work and everything else that gets in the way. At the time of diagnoses my son was two years old and I was 36 so there was plenty of time to get around to it... at some point.
Last year I was diagnosed with grade 2 lobular breast cancer and was listening to radio 4 a few weeks before my operation. Liz O’Riordan was saying how she continued to exercise through treatment and I decided to try that approach as well. I was already quite fit as I am an active member of a cycling club and had only recently cycled Mont Ventoux in the French Alps just before my operation.
OK so I started radiotherapy on 22ndNovember—the first of 20 sessions. Its ok – had an MRI and CT scan the week before to set me up. I have to give myself a mini enema 45 minutes before my session and then 30 minutes before drink two large glasses of water. First session they mark 3 little tattoos on my hips/tummy which they will use along with the laser to get me in the exact position every time. Once I am in position the staff disappear and the first thing is the machine performs a CT scan—this is used to make sure everything is in the right place and it takes them about 5 minutes to do their checking. Then the radiotherapy head pivots around my lower tummy which takes about 40 seconds and is completely painless. Then I’m off home.
When I got my diagnosis of breast cancer, a month after my 50thbirthday, I was the fittest I’d ever been in my life. I was training for the Women’s Head of the River Race which takes place on the Boat Race course, and my first reaction when I got my diagnosis was irritation that I wouldn’t be able to compete!
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, there were two things I was told would definitely happen to me. The first was that I would get constipation. The second was that my hair would never be the same again. Well, I never did get constipation and my hair - apart from the fact it is now in a style I would have the never had the confidence to pick - is still thick and straight. What no one told me as I was ferried between consultation rooms was that I would end up owning lycra; that I would turn to exercise and that exercise would change my life.