Shu’s story – “Love got me through”

06 Apr 2022

Shu was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at the age of 49. She has BRCA1 gene mutation, despite no history of the mutation in either side of her  family.

“I’ve always been proactive with my breast health: I often had mammograms and self-checked my breasts regularly. In  December last year (2021) I found a large lump during a routine self-check. I immediately made an appointment with my GP for further investigating. And that’s when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“It was a scary time. But my team of doctors were amazing and my husband and friends were all incredibly supportive. I just took it all step by step: the first step was discovery; the second step was action.

“I had surgery to remove the lump from my breast so that the doctor could assess it. They found that the lump was a hybrid: 50% was hormone driven and 50% was triple negative driven. Around 15% of women who have breast cancer have triple negative breast cancer. My diagnosis was that my breast cancer was aggressive stage two, due to the combination of hormone and triple negative cancers.

“At first, my head was full of questions. What about work, my future, long-term? My doctors told me that best treatment plan for me would be to have six months of intense chemotherapy, followed by radiation therapy. They gave me a lot of information about my diagnosis and treatment and were always available – over email or SMS – to answer my questions. I stayed off the internet and trusted the nurses and doctors to give me all the facts. There’s so much information available from reliable medical sources, which is how I found Pink Hope. My oncologist and a friend who’d been through a double mastectomy recommended the site. At first I didn’t want to join a group of strangers to talk about my diagnosis, but I soon changed my mind. The community here was a great help – it’s where I formed new relationships and found sources of truth.

“My oncologist suspected that I, as with most triple negative patients, might have a history of genetic mutation and advised me to have a gene test. Again, he was extremely helpful in answering all my questions and laid out the various treatment plans available to me if the test returned positive. So I went into the test knowing all the options that would be available to me.

“Before I had the gene test I had to answer some family history questions – neither side of my family has had breast cancer.  My gene doctor reassured me that it was unlikely then that my test would come back positive. But it did. I had the BRCA1 gene mutation.

“I didn’t cry when I received the news : my doctor had prepared me for this possible outcome. I knew the treatment pathway I would need to follow. I actually felt relieved. Relieved that I could get started on the right treatment for me.

“I’ve never paid attention to my body in the way I do now. My body is my voice and I have to be sensitive and listen to it. During, and after the chemotherapy, and managing the side effects, my body trained me to listen to it, so that I knew when I had to stop and rest. Rest is just so important, not just when you’re going through chemotherapy, but also for your mind, body and soul.

“I had to find a way to deal with the worry, it never stopped during that entire 12 months of scans, tests and treatments. What I’ve learned to do is to be aware, to pinpoint and name just one worry. I’d ask myself: ‘What can I do with this worry?’ And I’d answer: ‘I can throw it away.’

“There was no point worrying about some test results you’d get in two days’ time. Healthy distractions, such as cooking a nice meal, or watching Netflix helped me relax and stay calm.

“Talking to other people in my support group on Pink Hope has also helped. People are so open about their experiences, the pain, the joy, the worries and their anxieties. It is a safe place for me to seek support. At first I just read other people’s stories, but then I slowly began to contribute. Even now, after my treatment has finished, I still participate in the community to help others. I’m really open to meeting people who have gone through the same experience as me, so that I can pay it forward and share advice and my journey.

“When you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer it’s about finding your courage. We all have that courage inside of us and we can all get through this with a strong mind, body and spirit. It’s important to use the support you are offered. Love, and accepting love, was part of my treatment plan and it definitely helped me. Remember that you’re not alone. There’s other people out there who have been through what you have and want to help you. It’s okay to be vulnerable.”