“I found a lump and needed it checked out. I gave it 2 weeks but couldn’t get an appointment through the doctors – eventually the receptionist directed me to a video GP app. They got me in to see the doctor the next day, which really got the ball rolling with a referral.
I got the cancer diagnosis on my 50th last year. I definitely won’t forget that birthday. The doctors thought they’d caught it early, but it had spread to the lymph nodes. Though they were successful in removing the lymph nodes, they gave me chemo to be on the safe side.
I actually thought losing my hair would really affect me but it hasn’t. I prefer no hair, I really do. I was offered a wig but I wasn’t really bothered. Knowing me it will just blow off in public! So I’ll roll with this look. I’m still me.
There aren’t many perks to chemo but not having to shave my legs and underarms is definitely one. The side effects can be a nightmare – apparently this next dose I’m having tomorrow will cause water retention. After the chemo I’ll have radiotherapy, then it’ll be hormone treatment for 10 years. I think that’s actually what I’m worried about most, dealing with things like weight gain. But I’ll just see what happens. I’m treated so well at the hospital, they’re really kind.
Before the diagnosis I went through a lot – an armed robbery, and a sequence of traumatic things. I’d been on antidepressants for a while, then recently I called up to order a repeat prescription but they suddenly stopped them, and I couldn’t get them reinstated. With the chemo and everything else I was dealing with, I was distraught.
I then talked to another amazing doctor. We were on the video call for a long time – so much came out. She just listened. She managed to reinstate my medication, and she also referred me to a mental health service for more support. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s just the fact she listened, learned my whole backstory and dedicated that time to me. For so long I hadn’t been able to put a face to my doctor. But this felt personal.
The mental health referral came through within a week. I’m on a waiting list but they’ve given me other points of contact. Because I was living with my mum, had a complicated family situation and was dealing with the fear of the unknown you get with chemo, it all felt like too much. And Livi was there at the right time, giving me the relief that someone cared.
I decided to move out of my mum’s because it wasn’t good for my mental health. I’d met my partner Paul on a dog walk – it took him about 18 months to talk to me! But it was worth it. He had two dogs and I had one, and now we’re all together in his house. I’m now living the most chilled out life, making decisions for myself.
I remember me and Paul were texting the night before my lymph nodes operation. The next morning at 6am he turned up just to give me a hug. So I thought ‘you’re not bad, you’ll do’. We got together officially that day.
After the cancer I’d love to go abroad, I’ve never done that before. I’m also looking forward to doing more exercise to help my mental health. You take things for granted until your body limits you, so when you can, you’ve got to grab life and go for it. Although I feel quite limited at the moment, I always look forward to walking the dogs. That gets me out of bed in the morning – I have to get up for them. They keep me going.
Going through chemo is so rough, and there should be more mental health support for us. I panic very easily and tend to catastrophise. I had talking therapy but that fell by the wayside when lockdown happened. I’d train myself to think everything was fine, but it wasn’t. Having a more settled personal life has helped me, though. I’m looking forward to getting back to therapy but right now I’m trying to live in the moment. I can’t wait to get my life back.”