Young people think they are invincible. Maybe I’m generalising but I certainly thought that the universe was on my side and had the mindset of ‘oh but I’m only in my 20s, nothing can happen to me’. I learnt the hard way that this is not the case for everyone. There I was, aged 22 being diagnosed with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (LFS), a condition which prevents my body from being able to suppress tumour growth. It was then an almost guarantee (90% chance) that I would experience breast cancer in my lifetime, but I just didn’t think it would happen so soon. 

Each year, I am called for an MRI due to my LFS. The MRI is the best way for doctors to understand if there are any changes going on in my body, and a small price to pay for peace of mind. However, this time round was different. This time I was told that I had breast cancer.”

Breast cancer wasn’t something I particularly thought about before my LFS diagnosis – I checked my chest when I remembered. The mere fact I thought it was unlikely people my age were able to get cancer meant that my diagnosis came as such a shock to myself and my family. I hadn’t noticed any unusual changes and therefore didn’t expect to come out of the hospital with life-changing news. 

As I began to come to terms with how my life was about to change, my treatment plan was drawn up and I was booked in for a double mastectomy. I had put myself forward for an elective, risk-reducing mastectomy only a year or so earlier due to LFS, but sadly I was too far down the waiting list and it didn’t come around soon enough. In addition to this, I had chemotherapy, hormone therapy and a host of other medications along the way. Radiotherapy is off the cards due to my increased risk of developing cancer, but my oncologist is pleased with how I have responded to the other treatments. 

Losing my hair due to the chemo was the hardest part for me – my long hair was my identity and I have always held a lot of importance in how I look. Since treatment, I will always see myself very differently and I don’t feel I’m the person I was before my diagnosis. I’m constantly reminded of how precious life can be, and therefore try to remain as positive and happy as I can. 

Going through something like this makes you extremely grateful for the life you have and it’s something I try to instil in everyone around me too.

It’s hard to understand the impact of a cancer diagnosis until you experience it, so finding people who can relate is key to keeping a positive mindset. I found that there weren’t many young people around me going through a similar thing, so I learnt a lot on social media to seek the support and advice that I needed to cope with, and understand, the path I was on. That’s when I found the breast cancer community and despite having never heard of CoppaFeel! before, it became clear how crucial they were for raising awareness for young people. 

My future is unclear at the moment – LFS certainly adds a risk of further cancer diagnoses, but I’m keen to continue to advocate for early detection and use my voice to ensure all young people know that breast cancer can affect them. I’m proud of my journey so far, and look forward to seeing where life will take me!