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Although she wasn’t aware of the risk of breast cancer at a young age, Miranda went to her doctor after discovering a lump during one of her regular chest checks. Miranda was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, and later secondary breast cancer in 2019, despite being in remission. Miranda tells us about her experience and why it’s so important to keep clued up on the signs and symptoms.
I would always check my chest every month or so when I was having a shower. Checking has always been on my radar from seeing campaigns, so I’ve always just done it, however I was always just looking for a lump – I wasn’t aware of the other symptoms. There’s a history of breast cancer in my family – both my maternal aunts in Ghana were diagnosed in their 40s – but I didn’t take it seriously that it could affect me too. The nearest I had been exposed to breast cancer was in my first year of university when my housemate’s cousin died from it.
I wasn’t aware of the risk at my age, I only thought that my gender put me at risk.
When I was 32 I discovered a lump during one of my self examinations. I checked to see if the other side had the same (which it didn’t) and waited until the next day to see if it was still there. It was, so I rang my GP straight away and was asked to come in for an appointment. As it was a male GP and there was no female chaperone available, he referred me straight to the hospital, as he wasn’t able to examine me. I waited 2-3 weeks for my appointment, and in the meantime I could feel the lump growing.
At my appointment, the breast nurse examined me and didn’t like the look of the lump. She sent me for a mammogram, and later a biopsy. At first I was going to keep it all a secret, but my mum overheard a voicemail that the hospital left for me and she offered to come with me to my next appointment. It was the 21st August, the day before my brother’s birthday, and I was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 32.
When they asked if I had any questions, I asked if I could still do the Great North Run. I had been training for nine months and the race was only a few days later. I ran it, and completed it in just over two hours and then started treatment just a few days later.
When I was diagnosed, there weren’t many people I told, although there were a few people I wanted to hear about it from me directly. A friend of mine had ovarian cancer in her 20s, and I wanted to speak to her directly, as I knew my diagnosis could bring back a lot of memories for her. She was able to give me lots of advice about treatment and side effects, and knew what to do to help me along the way (for example, instead of sending me flowers, sending me a mixtape!) Another friend had cervical cancer, so she too was brilliant at telling me what to expect. The day I started my chemotherapy, I posted it on Facebook so that everyone else was aware. My friends and family have always been around so I’ve never felt alone. I’m lucky that if I need someone, I know I can turn to them for help.
The following March I had a tumour removed with a lumpectomy.
For me, my breasts are a part of my identity, so despite my mum worrying and telling me I should have a double mastectomy (as she thought this would help reduce the chances of it coming back), I was really keen to keep my breasts.
I wasn’t bothered about my hair and wasn’t fussed when it started to drop out. My hair is rubbish anyway, so I was happy to lose it all and start afresh. My hair now is actually much curlier and softer than it was before. My relationship with my body hasn’t really changed as such since my diagnosis – the only thing that I would say has changed for me, is around having sex after treatment. I worried and wondered if people would still find me attractive, whether they would notice my scars, or whether the confidence I had in my body had changed. It turns out that none of it mattered!
Over a year after being diagnosed, I had my final injection which is the point at which I could class myself as in remission. Being in remission gave me a new lease of life and I decided to grab life by the boobs! I went to all the concerts I wanted to go to, visited New Zealand to see the Shire from Lord of the Rings, and did a couple more half marathons. A few years later I wanted to improve my racing time, so I changed my diet and started going to the gym. This was in November, when the colds and flus started to go around. I developed a cough which I thought was seasonal, but in the January I went to the GP to get it checked out. He thought it was a chest infection and so I was offered some antibiotics and told to come back if it persisted. I felt worse and started to be sick.
I ended up ringing 111 as my GP practice didn’t have a same-day appointment, and after explaining my history of cancer, they sent an ambulance and I was blue-lit to the hospital. They did lots of tests and found some cancer cells which were likely causing my issues.
My mum and brother are such worriers so they were really concerned when I told them. When you hear the word ‘cancer’, you always just think ‘death’. I was always worried about the cancer coming back, so to hear that I had stage 4 was devastating. It was a shock as I’d been really fit and didn’t expect it. When they gave me my scan results, they said it had been growing for a while. I’ve been having treatment on and off since then.
Ideally, even though I have met many wonderful people and have had many wonderful experiences, I would give it all up not to have cancer. If I was to give a bit of advice to someone newly diagnosed I would say don’t keep it a secret and do your research. Knowledge is power.
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