Get a Regular
Emily was 23 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer after finding a lump in her breast. Emily spoke to us about how she got to know what was normal for her, and why she wants to share her experience to help other young people.
I was 23 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two close family members had previously been diagnosed and I think their experiences encouraged me to be more breast aware from a young age. They were around the age of 50 when they were diagnosed, so I associated breast cancer with that sort of age group. I had such a shock when I discovered how many young people have been affected by breast cancer.
Because of this strong family history, it certainly urged me to be self-aware. I use a gradual self-tan moisturiser – which I would always apply on a Thursday – and check myself whilst I did it. Even when I washed in the shower I would have a feel – I knew my breasts and what was normal for me. I had quite lumpy boobs naturally, but I knew to get anything that did not feel normal to me checked out.
I knew that I had an increased risk but I did not expect to be diagnosed so young. In fact, I was probably slightly ignorant to the fact that breast cancer can happen at such a young age.
I was laying in bed one night and had brushed my hand past my breast and noticed a solid lump. It genuinely felt like this nasty lump had just appeared overnight! In a way, I was extremely fortunate because my lump was very noticeable and I don’t think I would have been able to miss it for very long. My blood ran cold when I felt it, and I instinctively knew that something was not right. I have always been a bit anxious about my health anyway, so I rang my GP the following morning. I was examined in the next few days and was told that the doctor thought it was a harmless fibroadenoma [a non-cancerous lump], however they referred me to the breast clinic for further tests. I know how fortunate I am that my GP took me seriously. I went to the breast clinic around a week later and had an examination, ultrasound, and a biopsy, which I found petrifying at the time! I will never forget squeezing the life out of the lovely nurse’s hand! I was told I would get the results within two weeks – I practically ran out of the double doors of the hospital and burst into tears! In the longest two weeks of my life, me and Dr. Google became best friends and I frightened the living daylight out of myself! (Do not be like me!) I remember trying to call the breast care nurses almost daily, trying to squeeze extra information out of them!
I had a telephone appointment the day before my 24th birthday and my consultant told me it was cancer. I remember typing all the information out whilst he was speaking to me. To be honest, I had prepared myself for the worst so, although I was upset, I almost felt a sense of relief that I didn’t have to wait for my results any longer. I found it really difficult to tell people about my diagnosis at first, but slowly told my close family and friends. I feel like this is a really hard aspect of the diagnosis – how many difficult conversations you have at the start. I am very open about my diagnosis now which has felt freeing.
I had definitely heard of CoppaFeel! before I was diagnosed, mainly through social media and TV. I find the whole charity inspirational.I had followed Kris’ story when I was growing up and both her and CoppaFeel!’s social media campaigns definitely played a part in prompting me to get to know my boobs. The CoppaFeel! ads are really relatable – they are simple and really helpful for people my age.
After being diagnosed, I turned to CoppaFeel! looking for stories from other young people. It has made me feel more normal going through my diagnosis. I used to put many things down to hormonal changes, but I’ve learnt just how important it is to advocate for your own health if something doesn’t feel right.
Knowing what was normal for me allowed me to notice any unusual changes. All along, the doctors were telling me what a difference finding my symptoms early made to my treatment.
I did find it tough dealing with breast cancer at this age and definitely had bad days. At times, I felt like everyone my age was just getting on with life and thriving, and I was stuck in this cancer loop. I was always the youngest in most waiting rooms which was challenging. I am still struggling to adjust to the new ‘me’ post-cancer, but I know I will get there. Now that I am through the main part of treatment, I want to put my energy into helping others who may be in a similar situation to me because I know it can be so isolating. When I was diagnosed, I trawled social media and YouTube to try and find someone who was in the same position as me – just to give me a sense of normality. I feel much better about everything now and I’ve been accepted onto a training contract as a solicitor a year on from my diagnosis. I’m trying to do things to give back and want to share my story so that I might be able to make other young people who are diagnosed feel less alone.
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