Lotta shares her story
Since my mid-20s I have been very body aware – my lifestyle is relatively healthy. I have never smoked, I don’t drink, I exercise regularly, I check my breasts and I generally look after my body.
In mid-December 2016 I lifted my gym bag out of my car; it hit me on the left-hand side of my chest, and it felt like a very sharp edge. I didn’t think much of it the first week. I thought it was just a large bruise under the skin and therefore it would go away in time. When it hadn’t gone away after three weeks, I made an appointment with my GP who did an examination. They referred me to the breast clinic for further checks, just to be on the safe side. I wasn’t feeling nervous, the GP was calm, and it is not in my nature to worry about things until I know what I’m dealing with.
I went for a biopsy four weeks after my initial appointment, and two weeks after that I went for an appointment to get my results. As it was during the day and because I don’t have family in the UK, I went on my own.
The doctor advised me that I had breast cancer. I was 35 years old with no history of breast cancer in my family. The initial shock literally took my breath away; they were the last words I ever expected to hear. My appointment lasted about 15 minutes and then I had to make decisions on who to tell and how. This turned out to be a much harder task than I had expected.
My mind went into overdrive. Weirdly, I called my manager first, but I am close to her. Once I got home, I called my parents. They live in a different country, so a phone call was the only option. I felt as if I could hear their hearts break. Once they were ok, I could rationally think about who else needed to know at that stage. I decided quite early on that if I was going to lose my hair or be very unwell, I would be very open about my diagnosis. I spoke to my line manager again the following day and told my immediate team that week. I also told my closest friends individually, mostly face to face, and everyone’s reactions were different and each time my heart ached for them, seeing how upset they were.
My treatment started incredibly quickly; I had my first operation within four weeks of the diagnosis. I then went through six rounds of chemotherapy, followed by four weeks of radiotherapy, and then one final surgery. I lost body hair but managed to keep some on my head. I was not terribly sick and was very fortunate to be able to work all the way through my treatment. Yes, I was very tired, and my skin went quite grey, but in general I was managing well. My managers and colleagues were extremely supportive and flexible. My friends were, of course, very shocked, but once they saw I was doing ok, life just settled into the new normal.
I completed my treatment nine months after diagnosis, and now only go in for annual mammograms as follow-up appointments. I remained in the “active” cancer treatment system for 2 years, as this was the time when a reoccurrence was most likely to happen.
I’m 100 per cent sure that being aware of what is normal for my body and reacting to the abnormal change I noticed contributed to the successful outcome of my treatment. I think it also helped that my general level of fitness was high, as well as having a positive attitude.
I know I am very lucky that I received an early diagnosis. Each cancer journey is different and difficult, and everyone deals with it in their own way. Since I made my diagnosis public at the end of May 2017, I’m very open to sharing my story as it is one of hope and positivity.
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