T/W discussion of cancer
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to show support, highlight the causes and preventative measures against the disease.
When I was seven, my mum discovered a lump on her breast. It didn’t take long for her to be diagnosed with breast cancer and for the next two years of trauma and uncertainty to begin.
I don’t think it ever crossed my mind that she could die. Even as I watched the hair fall out in clumps when she brushed it in front of the mirror in the hall. Or when she went in for her first operation. Not even when I went to visit her in the hospital after her second.
It is funny, one of the main things I remember from this visit was proudly displaying the ‘school councillor’ badge on my school uniform. Looking back on this now, the contrast between innocent little me and my very poorly mum seems so vivid.
In many ways I am very grateful to both my parents because although I was exposed to the realities of the disease, I don’t think I ever ‘lost’ any of my childhood. When mum’s hair eventually all fell out, she drew smiley faces on her head with shaving foam; everything was flipped into a positive.
Thankfully, after a long run of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and five years of medication, she has remained in remission for almost fifteen years.
While I am conscious to share this short anecdote of my personal experience with the disease to enable you all to see a human story behind it. I am also keen to emphasise why this story has a happy ending.
From the moment my mum found the lump, she followed the slogan boasted by so many charities; ‘if in doubt, get it checked out’. Although it was definitely easier to get a GP appointment in 2007 than it is today, the importance of getting new lumps checked remains unchanged.
Similarly, I want to urge every reader to do a monthly check of themselves- a tutorial for how to do this can be found below.
Finding cancer early makes it far more treatable- I promise that you will get over the fear of making that initial appointment.
What are some of the most common signs?
-New lump in breast/ chest or armpit
-Irritation or dimpling of breast/ chest skin
-Swelling in breast/ chest area
-Nipple discharge (including blood)
-Changes in size or shape of breasts
-Pain in breast/ chest area or nipples
-Redness or flaky skin in breast/ chest area or around nipples
What can make you more susceptible?
-Being a woman (or those born female)
-Starting periods early (before 12)
More than a third of women don’t check their breasts. Follow this monthly Breast Check tutorial:
Get reminders to check yourself:
Resources for transgender and non-binary people: