My name is Liz, and I am originally from Roscommon but have lived in Cork since 2002. I am married to Keith since 2011, who is originally from Dublin, and together we have 2 daughters – Cara (6 3/4) and Grace (4 1/2) In my day-to-day life, I work as an Environmental Health Officer with the HSE, but am on extended sick-leave from my post since May 2019.
In April 2019, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Triple Negative Breast Cancer after finding a lump measuring approximately 2cm in my right breast. It was purely by chance that my hand brushed off it while I was getting changed for bed. I had been out that night with friends from work and had a few drinks, so I didn’t think very much of it until I felt for it again the following morning and it was still there and I definitely hadn’t imagined it.
TNBC is an aggressive form of breast cancer, with more limited treatment options, when compared with other types of Breast Cancer. I had half prepared myself for the bad news, because I had found the lump myself, but it still shakes you to the core of your being when you hear those words “I’m sorry, but it’s cancer”
This started the craziest, most stressful most emotional and difficult rollercoaster I have ever been on, and I honestly had no idea what was in store! It’s all a whirlwind of appointments and scans, doctors and consultants, and you go through every emotion imaginable.
I consider myself lucky because I took action straight away, and the Cancer was found at a relatively early stage and therefore had not spread past the immediate lump.
I had full confidence in the incredible medical team in the Bons, asked all of the stupid questions and did what I was asked. I took it all one week at a time, and when my oncologist looked me in the eye and told me they were going to get it all, I believed him and thankfully he followed through on his word and didn’t let me down!
Keith was beside me the whole way through, and there aren’t enough words in the english vocabulary to describe how grateful I am for him.. I couldn’t have done it without him! We don’t have family close by, but they were always willing to drop everything to come help when needed. We are also lucky to have an amazing support system of friends and neighbours near and far and along with some even more incredible people I have gotten to know along this ‘journey’, both in my phone and in real life, I have made it through (relatively) intact and I am finally beginning to allow myself to look to the future again.
Luckily though, after 16 rounds of intensive chemotherapy from May – October 2019, lumpectomy surgery including a sentinel node biopsy in November 2019, and 20 rounds of Radiotherapy January- February 2020, no evidence of the disease was detected after surgery, and I was given the all-clear!!
During treatment, my sole focus was keeping life as normal as possible for my girls, with help from my wonderful husband, and getting through each of the chemotherapy infusions, taking it all one week at a time, there wasn’t very much time left to focus on my mental health and wellbeing aside from the day to day chemo side effects and niggles.
Once I was through the ravaging effects of the chemotherapy my focus could shift to myself, and it was then that I contacted Cork Cancer Care Centre.
From the first time I stepped inside the door, I was made feel so welcome, both by Linda and her team and all of the other cancer warriors who also frequent the centre. It’s like a home from home!
Here you meet others who are going through and have gone through the same as you, and it is an invaluable resource to be able to discuss random side effects and feelings/ thoughts running through your head with others who just ‘get it’
You are offered amongst other things, the most incredible range of holistic therapies which focus on healing rather than curing, and includes physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Next step is counselling. They have a range of volunteer counsellors on staff, and you are paired with one which is suited to you, and the next stage of healing begins.. talk-therapy. This was the stage when I started to acknowledge my own emotions, and share them (out loud) with another person, who I didn’t feel as if I was burdening them with my deepest, darkest thoughts and not just keeping them in my head. Once you verbalise these fears and anxiety, they don’t seem to have the same power over you and this was a massive step for me.
Covid has obviously stopped these therapies for the last number of months, but I am looking forward to a time when we can get these back, and meet face-to-face again, as they are a valuable part of the healing process after the trauma that is cancer. However, they are continuing to hold their counselling services both online and on a one-to-one basis.
I have been using my Instagram page @myboobisbust to document the highs and lows of cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery and it’s been very cathartic for me.
I would hope that if somebody who is in the position I was in 18 months ago was to stumble across it, it could be of some support or comfort to them.