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‘A message of love and support is a beautiful thing’ – Amy’s story

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by Cancer Research UK | Analysis

14 January 2016

18 comments 18 comments

Amy in late 2014, just after she finished radiotherapy

A year ago, to help raise awareness of World Cancer Day, Amy shared her experience of being diagnosed with, and treated for, breast cancer at just 30.

In the run up to World Cancer Day 2016, we caught up with her to find out how she was doing after finishing her treatment – and why she’s supporting World Cancer Day again.

In early 2014, I felt a lump in by breast… and then my world fell apart.

On 2nd May, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. That meant surgery to remove the entire inside of my breast and my nipple, followed by four and a half months of chemo, then radiotherapy… then another operation.

By the end of November, I’d got through all that, and the cancer was in remission. But my treatment wasn’t over – far from it. A year on, I still have to have daily pills and monthly injections to stop me producing hormones that the cancer feeds off – and these have various side effects.

After you’re told you’re in remission, you find the girl you were pre-cancer isn’t there any more, nor is the girl you were during cancer – that all-time fighter with the brave face. She’s gone, she’s ‘won’, and everyone’s happy and it’s great that we’re healthy again.

But then you wonder – who are you? Who is this girl that remains?

On the one hand, after months of treatment, a year of feeling sick to the core, you’re at the end of your tether. The world feels as though it stops turning. You hit a brick wall

One breast. Thin ashy sprouts of hair. A swollen face. A fatter, aching body from the drugs – and potentially one that can no longer have children.

Of course, you’re thankful – to the doctors, nurses and all the researchers behind the treatments that helped me. My gosh, are we survivors thankful! But there’s half a woman stood in the mirror, still a girl not knowing what her future holds, but knowing, for that year, a lot of her chances, her hope, got thrown away.

It took me months, with help, to realise that crying was OK, and wasn’t a sign of weakness. To realise that I was OK to grieve for a part of me that I had lost, emotionally and physically.

I hid this from the world, because the world is happy that you’re healthy and you’re alive – and you are too. But you’re still slightly lost.

But then, there’s the other side of things. You realise what’s important. Those who stood by you through cancer are still, and always have, and will be, by your side. Of course I always treasured them, but even more so now.

Amy 2

Amy now, with her Unity Band

My mum was here as much as she could be, and both my mum and dad always just a text or call away.

My friends – my ‘chosen family’ – were also there – through good times and bad, my treasures, my angels, my hope and my reason for being. Not a week goes by when I don’t try to let these people know how much they mean to me.

So what did I learn from my year of being ill?

I learnt who loved me completely.

I learnt to love myself, whether well or battered and bruised.

I got to go travelling, to experience Thailand and feel at peace with myself in the jungle.

But most importantly I felt safe and loved at home.

And, so yes, I’m grateful to everyone – doctors, nurses, surgeons, family, friends, all my loved ones. I’ll treasure moments with them for life.

That’s the thing you see. No matter how broken you are – whether you’ve survived, are surviving or at the end – the one thing we all show is love and compassion for one another.

Be closer to the ones you love and treasure them.

Tell them as much as you can, whether you’re proud or happy or you have amazing memories. Never forget that a message of love, support and unity, in any form, is a beautiful thing – and I believe we should do it so much more.

Wear a Unity Band™ on 4 February, World Cancer Day, or give a small donation to be a part of the generation that transforms the lives of millions who are affected by cancer.

Visit cruk.org/worldcancerday for more information.


    Comments

  • Dean & Sarah Rochester
    28 January 2016

    Lovely article Amy! We watched tattoo fixers too – love the tat, looks amazing. hope everything is good with you. Dean & Sarah xxxxxxxxxx

  • Lesley Asque
    19 January 2016

    What a lovely story and Amy has put into words some of my thoughts too! I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 and I am still in contact with the people who supported me through the initial diagnosis and treatment, I will never forget their kindness. There has been some very positive outcomes from this disease, you find out what really counts in this world. Life is very precious, treasure it, try to help others along your journey and make every day count

  • James Hughes
    19 January 2016

    You are so strong and I would never have guessed you were so I’ll,and still going through the after effects must be so tough,I really can’t say how you must feel now however I can say your a beautiful young lady that will(because of your strength)find serenity in yourself and happiness with someone special,I’m a man and have daughters and one has had similar problems,an I myself have something similar only on my liver so I can say this,as it takes a true soldier to go through and come out in the end fit and well,I also lost some family from age seven to my gran mother and uncle passed with that dreaded illness in Feb last year,but I was soo soo happy to hear a success story especially being a young lady with your whole life ahead of you now,I will wear my band with pride and you are amazing,from friends in Glasgow and London,we wish you well

  • Yvonne Kirtlan
    16 January 2016

    I am almost three years into treatment for breast cancer. I was lucky and was diagnosed while it was at stage 1, but it had already begun to spread locally. Thankfully, I was spared the trauma of chemotherapy but had two ops, radiotherapy and am now taking drugs to combat oestrogen. I can relate to everything you said. But for those of you at the beginning of the journey, please don’t despair. At first, cancer is your whole world and fills every space in and around you, but, trite though it may sound, and if of course you are as fortunate as me, this all-enveloping and stifling feeling will dissipate and cancer will melt into the corners of your life. Yes, the scars remain, but they are testament to your survival of this most detestable of conditions.

  • Angela
    16 January 2016

    So true . In times of need you realise who is important to you . I too am in remission from breast cancer so am blessed so will be supporting cancer day

  • Camilla
    16 January 2016

    Couldn’t have put it better myself, Amy. I was diagnosed with a rare cancer 20 years ago at 17 years old. I still treasure all the love & kindness I experienced & it’s certainly influenced the woman I became after recovery. Love & best wishes to you. xx

  • Lorraine
    16 January 2016

    A beautiful, informative piece Amy. I too had oestrogen fuelled breast cancer, seven years’ ago. Every day is a blessing. Wishing you a healthy and happy future. X

  • Fiona OSullivan
    15 January 2016

    Spot on Amy-thank you for sharing xx

  • Tracy
    15 January 2016

    Thank you for sharing your feelings and your journey, an inspiration, health and happiness for your future xx

  • Bill
    15 January 2016

    A heartfelt story on what it really feels like to go through finding out, treatment and the residual effect it has. Good luck Amy

  • Jane beech
    15 January 2016

    I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in Aug 2015, op sept, right breast removed, chemo oct 2015 to Feb 2106, I have just had my 4th TAC, radiotherapy X 15 to follow then hormone, at times like this you find out who your true friends are and family, wishing you all well and to a better 2016, Jane x

  • Marie
    15 January 2016

    Amy you are beautiful X

  • Sharon
    15 January 2016

    I am going exactly through what you did. I am coming up to my last chemo. I will be wearing a unity band. Your story Is an inspiration. Thank you

  • Mo
    15 January 2016

    Brave girl Amy. Thanks for sharing your story. I too was diagnosed with Grade 2 lobular carcinoma, oestrogen positive and HER2 positive in 2013. I know what you are going through, but there is light at the end of the tunnel! I’m doing really well thanks to family, friends, doctors and nurses. Hang in there and keep on being courageous. One can’t be brave unless one experiences fear. Good luck on your journey, Amy. I’ll be wearing a unity band on February 4th!

  • Mary Thorpe
    15 January 2016

    My family have been affected by cancer and also the threat of it and it is a very frightening time. What a touching, heartwarming story you have told. You are a credit to yourself and your parents. I wish you good luck in the future. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  • Rachel
    15 January 2016

    That was absolutely brave Amy. Keep keeping on! I’m definitely wearing a unity band come February 4..

  • Georgina Holden
    15 January 2016

    I echo these sentiments, my journey with bowel cancer has been much simpler, so far just surgery and no chemo, but like you my gratitude to the medical staff (especially my wonderful surgeon and her team) and the nurses who looked after me post-op is immense. It is wonderful to find out who cares about you and to feel love and appreciated in the midst of all the difficulties. Well done for getting through this so positively may your journey continue to be rich and fulfilling.

  • Rosemary Lloyd
    15 January 2016

    How brave. I will be proud to wear a Unity Band.

    Comments

  • Dean & Sarah Rochester
    28 January 2016

    Lovely article Amy! We watched tattoo fixers too – love the tat, looks amazing. hope everything is good with you. Dean & Sarah xxxxxxxxxx

  • Lesley Asque
    19 January 2016

    What a lovely story and Amy has put into words some of my thoughts too! I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 and I am still in contact with the people who supported me through the initial diagnosis and treatment, I will never forget their kindness. There has been some very positive outcomes from this disease, you find out what really counts in this world. Life is very precious, treasure it, try to help others along your journey and make every day count

  • James Hughes
    19 January 2016

    You are so strong and I would never have guessed you were so I’ll,and still going through the after effects must be so tough,I really can’t say how you must feel now however I can say your a beautiful young lady that will(because of your strength)find serenity in yourself and happiness with someone special,I’m a man and have daughters and one has had similar problems,an I myself have something similar only on my liver so I can say this,as it takes a true soldier to go through and come out in the end fit and well,I also lost some family from age seven to my gran mother and uncle passed with that dreaded illness in Feb last year,but I was soo soo happy to hear a success story especially being a young lady with your whole life ahead of you now,I will wear my band with pride and you are amazing,from friends in Glasgow and London,we wish you well

  • Yvonne Kirtlan
    16 January 2016

    I am almost three years into treatment for breast cancer. I was lucky and was diagnosed while it was at stage 1, but it had already begun to spread locally. Thankfully, I was spared the trauma of chemotherapy but had two ops, radiotherapy and am now taking drugs to combat oestrogen. I can relate to everything you said. But for those of you at the beginning of the journey, please don’t despair. At first, cancer is your whole world and fills every space in and around you, but, trite though it may sound, and if of course you are as fortunate as me, this all-enveloping and stifling feeling will dissipate and cancer will melt into the corners of your life. Yes, the scars remain, but they are testament to your survival of this most detestable of conditions.

  • Angela
    16 January 2016

    So true . In times of need you realise who is important to you . I too am in remission from breast cancer so am blessed so will be supporting cancer day

  • Camilla
    16 January 2016

    Couldn’t have put it better myself, Amy. I was diagnosed with a rare cancer 20 years ago at 17 years old. I still treasure all the love & kindness I experienced & it’s certainly influenced the woman I became after recovery. Love & best wishes to you. xx

  • Lorraine
    16 January 2016

    A beautiful, informative piece Amy. I too had oestrogen fuelled breast cancer, seven years’ ago. Every day is a blessing. Wishing you a healthy and happy future. X

  • Fiona OSullivan
    15 January 2016

    Spot on Amy-thank you for sharing xx

  • Tracy
    15 January 2016

    Thank you for sharing your feelings and your journey, an inspiration, health and happiness for your future xx

  • Bill
    15 January 2016

    A heartfelt story on what it really feels like to go through finding out, treatment and the residual effect it has. Good luck Amy

  • Jane beech
    15 January 2016

    I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in Aug 2015, op sept, right breast removed, chemo oct 2015 to Feb 2106, I have just had my 4th TAC, radiotherapy X 15 to follow then hormone, at times like this you find out who your true friends are and family, wishing you all well and to a better 2016, Jane x

  • Marie
    15 January 2016

    Amy you are beautiful X

  • Sharon
    15 January 2016

    I am going exactly through what you did. I am coming up to my last chemo. I will be wearing a unity band. Your story Is an inspiration. Thank you

  • Mo
    15 January 2016

    Brave girl Amy. Thanks for sharing your story. I too was diagnosed with Grade 2 lobular carcinoma, oestrogen positive and HER2 positive in 2013. I know what you are going through, but there is light at the end of the tunnel! I’m doing really well thanks to family, friends, doctors and nurses. Hang in there and keep on being courageous. One can’t be brave unless one experiences fear. Good luck on your journey, Amy. I’ll be wearing a unity band on February 4th!

  • Mary Thorpe
    15 January 2016

    My family have been affected by cancer and also the threat of it and it is a very frightening time. What a touching, heartwarming story you have told. You are a credit to yourself and your parents. I wish you good luck in the future. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  • Rachel
    15 January 2016

    That was absolutely brave Amy. Keep keeping on! I’m definitely wearing a unity band come February 4..

  • Georgina Holden
    15 January 2016

    I echo these sentiments, my journey with bowel cancer has been much simpler, so far just surgery and no chemo, but like you my gratitude to the medical staff (especially my wonderful surgeon and her team) and the nurses who looked after me post-op is immense. It is wonderful to find out who cares about you and to feel love and appreciated in the midst of all the difficulties. Well done for getting through this so positively may your journey continue to be rich and fulfilling.

  • Rosemary Lloyd
    15 January 2016

    How brave. I will be proud to wear a Unity Band.