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Lorna was just 21 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Unaware that breast cancer could affect younger people, Lorna tells us what made her visit her GP, and what advice she would give to her younger self.
When I was 21, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was living at home, working and had just started a relationship. I wasn’t checking my boobs, but my boyfriend at the time made me aware of a lump. I had no other symptoms but he had planted the seed in my mind that something was wrong. I didn’t know much about breast cancer and thought it was an older person’s problem, but my mum knew more and thought it was worth getting checked out.
The thought of getting breast cancer so young had never ever crossed my mind.
The doctors were very dismissive at first. They checked the lump and said it was probably nothing because of my age. They referred me to the breast clinic anyway, but said it would take up to 6 weeks. My mum wasn’t willing to wait that long, so she pressed for me to be seen sooner.
The doctor had already prepared me by saying, “If I was looking at this lump in a 50+ year old breast, I would say I’m 98% certain it’s cancer.”
Even though I was so much younger, I already had it in my head that it was cancer before they diagnosed me. It didn’t sink in for a while, and I don’t think it has still fully sunk in. I wasn’t expecting to find out that the cancer had spread from my breast to my lymph nodes and spine. That was the biggest shock. I knew then that my journey wasn’t going to be easy and would probably continue for years to come.
I became aware of CoppaFeel! whilst I was having chemotherapy. My mum saw the charity on TV raising awareness. I think finding CoppaFeel! has really helped me not to feel so lonely, knowing there are other young people out there in similar situations. I’m lucky that I also have such a strong network, and the people at the chemo unit have now known me for such a long time.
I wouldn’t change any part of my experience. I went into my journey thinking ‘I can’t do anything about this situation, all I can do is keep going’. Every time I thought the worst, I would tell myself to keep going.
My advice for anyone in a similar situation would be to not take no for an answer – ask for a second opinion and know you are entitled to stand your ground. And of course, people just need to check. It was one of those things I never thought about, and I wish I could go back and tell my younger self to check.
If you notice something that isn’t normal for you, it’s important to check it with a doctor. Click below to find out more about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and why you should regularly check yourself.
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