“Most people with your diagnosis live for between 3 and 5 years.” This is what the oncologist reluctantly said when I pushed him for my prognosis.
I wanted to know how long I have left to mother to Sophia.
He had told me that my cancer is considered incurable and that I will receive palliative treatment. None of that mattered to me, the only thing that mattered was Sophia.
I don’t want to make this post about me. Instead I want to share my story and make it about you. I would love it if me sharing my story gets you checking your breasts once a month.
Please “feel it on the first”. By this, I mean check your breasts on the first day of each month.
Put it in your calendar if you have to.
In December 2018, I found a lump in my breast. Over the next few weeks I had various tests which showed that by the time I was diagnosed, the cancer had also spread to my neck, my spine and liver.
I had never checked my breast before the day I found the lump.
Even though I was a doctor, I naively thought that because I was only 30, and because I had just had a baby that I wasn’t at risk. On a subconscious level I naively thought that in some weird way fertility represented health. Boy was I wrong.
Don’t hear my story and be afraid, there is nothing to be afraid of. When caught early, breast cancer is very treatable and in most cases completely curable.
So how is it caught early? Well in the UK if you are over 50 there is a national screening programme where women are invited to get mammograms. If however, you are under 50, you have to use your eyes and hands to check your breasts, ideally once a month.
There is no special way to check, just look and feel from your collar bone, across your chest and over your breasts.
If you do this once a month you will get a sense of what is normal for you, then if anything changes you will notice. If you do notice anything that you are concerned about, go and see your GP (family doctor). The same applies to men and non-binary people. It is important to check once a month.
In terms of how cancer has affected my parenting, I would say that it has changed the way I view my role.
I no longer see it that my job is to protect Sophia. Instead I see it that my job is to guide her and to equip her for life, because I may not always be here.
I see it that my job is to let her know that she is enough, just as she is.
I believe deeply that happiness comes from trusting in ourselves. This is what I want. For her to trust in herself.
Follow the incredible Em on Instagram @EmLivingherbestlife. Basically, she will change your life.
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