Rosie was 17 when her mum was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2016. While she was supposed to be revising for A-levels, she was also having to deal with many changes happening at home on top of the usual anxieties of exam season.
My mum was diagnosed with breast cancer on Wednesday 7th Dec 2016. She was 48 years old, I was 17 and my little brother was 15. The day before, Tues 6th Dec 2016, my grandfather on my Dad’s side passed away from lung cancer. Receiving two awful pieces of information in such quick succession was so overwhelming for our family, particularly for myself and my brother. My memories of the next few days and weeks are very hazy; I think we were all stunned with emotions and didn’t know exactly how to take all of this news. Navigating through the next few weeks was really tough, but we didn’t have a choice but to muddle through.
When Mum was diagnosed, I didn’t know much about breast cancer which made it harder to understand and come to terms with. I didn’t know what was going to happen to my Mum so everything felt overwhelming, and to be honest, terrifying! I’d been aware of other people getting diagnosed with breast cancer but had never thought of it affecting my family’s life. After Mum was diagnosed, I did a lot more research into breast cancer and tried to get clued up on the signs and symptoms so I knew what I needed to be aware of. It was then that I stumbled upon CoppaFeel! who have since become such a valuable resource in my quest to stay informed, and they helped me to understand exactly what my Mum was going through.
It’s often forgotten the effects that a diagnosis can have on the wider family of someone going through treatment.”
My brother and I had a tricky time at school following my Mum’s diagnosis; I was in Year 13 and my brother was in Year 11, which are pivotal times in schooling as we were supposed to be preparing and revising for our A Levels and GCSEs respectively. On top of the usual anxieties of exam season, we were also having to deal with all the changes happening at home – with Mum’s health and strength being affected by chemotherapy. I don’t think either of us got the grades we could have, had this not been going on. Having said that, we are lucky as it hasn’t affected us in the long run and we’re both still living the lives we wanted to. I would never regret prioritsing looking after my Mum over revising for my A Levels – grades may be important, but nothing is more important than family.
The following September I went off to University and felt incredibly guilty leaving my Mum and brother behind whilst she was still undergoing treatment and countless surgeries. Up until this point, I had been there throughout her whole diagnosis so I felt like I was just leaving them both. I knew I had to carry on my life and University was the next step, but the guilt still followed me; especially as I am the eldest and now my little brother was going to have to take on the responsibility.
I think it’s amazing that CoppaFeel!’s focus is educating young people, and facilitating important conversations about our health.”
I’ve learnt so much about my own body since starting university that I otherwise wouldn’t have been aware of. One of the main things was that some contraceptive pills can increase your risk of breast cancer (particularly if you have family history). I’ve always made doctors aware about my family’s situation, however my local GP, who knew all about Mum’s situation, was shocked when I came to him with my prescription request and told me I should never have been put on this pill in the first place. I came off it right away, and have since been placed on a different contraceptive that is much safer for me. I’m so angry with the doctors at my uni who put me on this pill, and hate to think that this might have long term effects on my health. Having this knowledge is so important, I now feel more empowered to take my health into my own hands and speak up if things don’t feel quite right for me.
We’re so lucky that my Mum made an incredible recovery and is doing well today. She still experiences pain from her reconstruction surgery, and we had to be so careful during the height of Covid to keep her protected which was also really tough. Coming through to the other side of her recovery and seeing her doing so well today makes me feel so inspired but also so grateful.
I am in total awe of her strength and courage and I feel extremely proud to call her my Mum.”