Living with breast cancer after treatment

Appleby, Carly

In 2017, Carly Appleby, a news editor for the BBC, received a stage three breast cancer diagnosis. She had no idea how difficult the treatment would be at the time. She considers how it has affected her life now as she looks back and forward.

I wouldn't have believed you if you had told me six years ago that I would still be undergoing cancer treatment at this point. .

When I was diagnosed at age 37, I was a young mother who was mostly worried about keeping myself alive for my husband and my then-3-year-old daughter.

Now that I no longer appear ill after years of hospital visits and treatments, things are not necessarily back to "normal," though. .

Even at 43, my body perceives me as much older than I actually am.

I still have terrible memory, fatigue, and aches and pains that keep me awake at night. .

After years of chemotherapy, it is a painful struggle to insert a cannula into my veins, and the veins in my arm will never return to normal. .

With the help of my family and friends, I feel proud of everything I have accomplished, and it has made me appreciate how amazing our bodies can be.

Carly and her young daughter
Carly and her daughter, who was three years old at the time of her cancer diagnosis.

I want to be able to watch my daughter, who is almost 10 years old, mature. .

I will never take my current good health for granted; each year is a privilege. .

My husband and I were shocked when I received my diagnosis; it had been a gorgeous day in the Cotswolds. We were unsure of what would occur.

For me, the cancer treatment took a while.

It involved multiple breast operations, reconstructions, and surgery to remove my ovaries, as well as six rounds of chemotherapy, 15 sessions per week of daily radiation therapy, a year of targeted therapy with the wonder drug Herceptin, and 18 months of Zoladex injections into my stomach.

All of this caused two years of hair loss and a sudden transition into surgical menopause. .

Carly Appleby
Carly wants the disease to be better understood.

I also take a Tamoxifen tablet every day and will continue to do so for another four years. It is used to reduce the possibility of early breast cancer returning.

I had no idea that cancer would prevent me from having more children when I first got it.

I'm still overcome with sadness over losing my ability to choose. To complete our family, we had hoped to have another child, but that is not going to be possible.

Because my cancer treatment had to begin right away, I was unable to freeze my eggs, and the fertility specialist we were referred to claimed that doing so would have caused my cancer to worsen.

People still make me feel hurt when they inquire as to my family size. However, I am incredibly appreciative of my daughter and the chance to be a mother. .

Carly ringing a bell
Carly sounds the treatment's final bell.

She no longer asks me why she doesn't have a brother or sister now that she is older. I regret that I was unable to give this to my husband and daughter.

The term "no evidence of disease," which oncologists prefer to use, refers to the fact that I am still alive and in remission, which means I no longer have cancer.

I am aware of how lucky I am. The last thing I think about before going to sleep at night or the first thing I think about in the morning has changed.

However, the worry that cancer will come back, develop into an incurable condition, and require more active chemotherapy and radiation therapy never goes away.

It's difficult to avoid drawing comparisons because I lost a lot of young friends to the illness. What then have I discovered?

Breast cancer is not pink and fluffy or the "easiest cancer" to diagnose, despite the fact that it is the most common cancer in the world. There should be more awareness.

In the UK, there are approximately 56,000 new cases of breast cancer annually, or more than 150 cases each day.

Each year, more than 11,000 women lose their lives to breast cancer. Breast cancer can also affect men, though the incidence is much lower.

  • Unwind, understand your own normal, and check your breasts once a month.
  • In the shower with soapy hands is the ideal time to check.
  • Beforehand, give yourself a good once-over in the mirror to check for any obvious lumps, skin changes, nipple changes, or discharge.
  • Keep an eye on your underarms.
  • Be aware that lumpy breasts, particularly in young women, are completely normal.
  • Depending on the menstrual cycle, breasts can change, but if a lump lasts for more than one cycle, see your doctor.

I only get annual mammograms on my healthy breast; I no longer have regular appointments.

Some well-meaning individuals would share with me stories of coworkers or friends who had battled breast cancer in the past and survived. .

Although it's interesting to hear these stories, no two diagnoses are exactly alike, so they have no real meaning. .

At times, I was too worn out to explain.

Carly Appleby
Carly said getting her eyebrows tattooed last year helped her feel more confident.

Living with cancer is difficult and presents unique difficulties. Many individuals deal daily with pain and side effects of therapy. .

I went through all of the typical symptoms, including depression, anxiety, fatigue, weight gain, loss of confidence, and sleep problems.

Many people do not recognize their bodies after treatment, and lack of confidence is a significant factor. This can be particularly challenging for some women. .

My breast cancer nurse did a fantastic job tattooing a fake but remarkably lifelike 3D nipple on my eyebrows because they never grew back. These two helped me feel better. .

The bottles of pinks, creams, and brown inks caused me to experience a mix of confusion and amusement.

I began to feel the needles halfway through the procedure on my numb chest. I was asked if I wanted to continue by the nurse.

You can't leave me with a circle that is only partially colored in, so yes please, I laughed and said. .

The other thing I quickly realized was how lonely cancer can be.

Despite the amazing support I received from friends and family, I still felt uncomfortable being the young mother with cancer in the playground. When you don't have any hair and you appear unwell, you stand out.

Despite the numerous acts of kindness we frequently received, it is difficult to comprehend how frightening and stressful treatment is unless you are actually going through it. You constantly wonder if you are going to live and survive.

You also believe that you are unable to do the things you enjoy doing due to physical and mental limitations.

We tried to make our world very small to keep me from getting sick. Before the pandemic even started, I was protecting myself at home.

Carly with other women with breast cancer at a retreat in Saddleworth
Carly went to Jo Taylor's Saddleworth breast cancer retreat.

I participated in a fantastic Where Now? course offered by the cancer charity Maggie's to discuss life after treatment because it can be difficult to know what is typical after cancer. .

Meeting people who had various cancers but shared a variety of concerns was incredibly helpful. .

We also did some Nordic walking, which is especially good for breast cancer survivors.

Family and friends may anticipate that you will be able to return to your pre-treatment state, but for some people, the fear of developing cancer and passing away can be too great. .

I looked for people who understood because I didn't know many women diagnosed under 40.

Carly doing yoga at a breast cancer retreat in Saddleworth
Holistic treatments and peer support are encouraged at the ABCDiagnosis breast cancer retreat.

I also went to a cancer retreat sponsored by ABCDiagnosis. It is run by the amazing Jo Taylor, who campaigns and runs a website while battling secondary breast cancer that is incurable.

Exercise, complementary therapies, and peer support are all encouraged at the retreat, and I still keep in touch with a lot of the women I met there. .

As a participant in the Younger Breast Cancer Network on Facebook, I also receive support.

Upon reflection, I can say that receiving a cancer diagnosis has strengthened me. I can deal with just about anything.

You become acutely aware of how precious and fleeting life is when you have a serious life-limiting illness.

Source link

You've successfully subscribed to NewsNow
Great! Next, complete checkout to get full access to all premium content.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Unable to sign you in. Please try again.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Error! Stripe checkout failed.
Success! Your billing info is updated.
Billing info update failed.