She said ‘Yes!’
We are Jenni and Rebbecca; we have both had breast cancer and are still here to tell the story. Recently, we have been talking and thinking about the community. Many more are dying of cancer than ever before (1 in every 2 people will get diagnosed with cancer). We simply wish for people to visit their GP if they have any unusual symptoms such as: abnormal bleeding, lumps, sudden weight loss, unusual rashes, etc. You can read more about symptoms here.
Therefore, we have teamed up to raise awareness of this disease. Today we begin with our first joint blog on our relative experiences.
Jenni Harris – From Darkness into Light
On 15th December 2017, I received a telephone call that disrupted my norm, I was diagnosed with Her2 positive breast cancer. I was 52 years old, fit healthy and I was not aware of any family member who had ever been diagnosed with breast cancer so this was a real curveball.
Even when the consultant was talking to me the words just did not make any sense as I didn’t have a lump”.
The reason I had initially sought medical advice was because I was getting a shooting pain in my breast whenever hugged someone.
When it first happened approximately 6 weeks before I ignored it which sounds crazy now, so let me put some context around it.
I had been working out in the gym a lot so I thought I may have pulled a muscle or something plus I was slap bang in the middle of my menopause so lots of things were changing and not necessarily for the better.
However, it was when I noticed some swelling in my breast that I decided to go and see my GP. Following my examination my doctor told me to get dressed and that there was nothing for me to worry about. I have no idea why but, it was in that instant that I thought for the first time “I am worried”. Luckily for me I had the courage to say what was on my mind and I asked for a referral.
What followed was the most difficult year of my life it felt like I was in a nightmare that I could not wake up from. But even on those dark days I had hope. I prayed a lot during my treatment which consisted of 3 weekly chemotherapy treatments that lasted for 6 months.
I had a unilateral mastectomy and 9 lymph nodes removed and mentally this was difficult but, I understood that it was saving my life. This was followed by 15 sessions of radiotherapy. I am now awaiting a reconstruction.
I still have a way to go but I hope everyday that I will be here for a while. I am back in the gym and I am serious about how I nourish my body these days.
“Has cancer changed me?”. Ask me again in 12 months but, for now I want to raise awareness in the Black & Asian communities, and I was thrilled when I approached Rebbecca that she said “YES”.
Rebbecca – Did I Really Get Cancer?
On 28th April 2017, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 40 years old, fit, healthy and had no known history of breast cancer in my family. How did I discover something was up? Well it wasn’t a lump (like is commonly reported in the awareness campaigns). One morning I looked at myself in the mirror and I noticed a tiny droplet of blood on the upper left section of my night dress. I looked around my body and couldn’t see where it came from so I ignored it. Luckily for me, four week later it happened again. This time upon my investigation, I saw it had come from my nipple. I knew that under normal circumstances, nipples don’t bleed. The doctor had later told me that if I hadn’t gone to the GP when I did, I would have been dead in a year.
That discovery consequently started me on massive journey of upheaval that I had never imagined I would travel. I had a unilateral mastectomy with a DIEP Flap reconstruction. The surgery involved cutting me from hip to hip to take out fat from my stomach to make me a new breast. It took three months for me to recover from the surgery. I had to balance the running of my education business, my 3-year-old (at the time), my home, my bliss, my mental health. To say it was tough is a monumental understatement.
However, I am now 18 months post-surgery and I am cancer-free! Suddenly, I feel as though, not only my head, but my entire body has been elevated out of deep water. I am on safe ground and I am renewed. I can look back without asking: “Why me?”, “Did I really get cancer?” or “Am I going to die soon?” Now I am making positive changes to improve my health and to avoid getting any type of cancer in the future.
I can say with certainty that cancer has changed me, for the better. I don’t pussy-foot around now, not with people, not with work, not with my health. I have a quiet determination to not only live a better life but equally to let people know that cancer can be preventable. So, when Jenni asked me to join her in spreading awareness of cancer amongst Black and Asian communities, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.