My name is Fiona, I am 42 years old and was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer two days before turning 40. The news came as a complete shock as there was no family history of breast or ovarian cancer that we were aware of. I previously found a couple of lumps, but they were never anything to worry about. When I found the next pea-sized lump, I thought it would be the same, but my GP sent me for scans to be sure.
After undergoing a breast ultrasound and mammogram, the results were still unclear. Because of my dense breast tissue, I had to have a biopsy to determine the diagnosis. At that stage, we still didn’t know it was triple negative, only that there was a definite answer for breast cancer.
I received this news during Christmas, so it wasn't easy to get into to see a specialist straight away. Then, just before the new year, I had more scans, a breast MRI, and finally saw the oncologist. My “New Year Celebration” meant that I was on my way to start six months of chemo, a lumpectomy, and five weeks of radiation.
Unfortunately, even after having genetic testing, I was still unable to know my ongoing risks. The test showed negative results for BRCA1 and BRCA2 but had an undetermined mutation of BRCA2. Because it was so rare to see this, they didn’t know enough about it and what that would mean for my future. I had to take my health into my own hands and chose to have my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed this year to reduce any additional risks.
Pink Hope’s resources, education sessions, and online support community were essential in helping me make informed decisions throughout my journey. They provide so much useful information and connect you with a community of women who get it. As much as your friends and family are great support, nothing compares to the bond you make with someone in the same situation as you. You can ask each other the hard questions and not have to worry about it.
Even with the most incredible support network around me, there were certain obstacles I had to face on my own. Losing my hair was one of the most traumatizing parts for me, and I felt self-conscious about my body throughout the process. I didn’t like who I saw in the mirror. Sitting with these feelings allowed me to learn my biggest lesson—my body is strong and capable of healing.
I had to put my life (and body) into the hands of someone else and trust that I’d be okay. Thankfully, I responded incredibly well to treatment. With the help of my medical team, chiropractic therapy, and naturopath, I avoided any terrible side effects. I learned to love my body for its strength rather than what it didn’t have anymore. Everyone’s journey is different—you have to find what will work best for you and give yourself the best possible outcome.
A cancer diagnosis can plunge you into the darkness. Illuminate, for me, means that you can find the light to brighten the darkest of days. It’s taking the hands of your family and friends and allowing them to guide you through it.
The most important advice I can give to those starting their journey is to say yes when people offer you help. Accept any help you can get, and make sure you’re reaching out to online and local support groups. Know it’s okay to rely on that support. As much as we try to stay strong— we can’t do this alone.