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Jackie’s breast cancer story

jackie-barcroft-circleJackie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, aged 51. This is her story:
“It was over a year ago now – around early 2015 – that I noticed a lump on my breast. I hadn’t felt it there before and it didn’t look right, so I thought I’d go to the doctors. You hear things all the time on the news about ‘if you notice a lump, get it checked out’ – so I did.
“When you go to the doctors you always hope they’re going to tell you it’s nothing to be concerned about. I mean, there’s always a risk, but if there’s a problem I’d rather know about it sooner than just bury my head in the sand and ignore it.
“So, I went to get my results and the doctor told me she wasn’t happy with the lump. I was referred to the hospital and managed to get an appointment really quickly. I can’t fault the medical staff for how swiftly they handled everything. It was a little scary that things were moving so fast, but I felt assured that I was in good hands.
“It was now about early May – so I went to my hospital appointment, feeling pretty apprehensive, but knowing I was in the best place. In that moment though, nothing can ever prepare you for hearing the doctor tell you it’s cancer.
“I have always been a very positive person, but a cancer diagnosis knocks you for six. Even though I knew it was a possible diagnosis, hearing your worst suspicions confirmed out loud is not easy. It took a while for me to come to terms with the diagnosis – my head was spinning with all the ‘what if’ thoughts, but ultimately I knew that I had done all I could by going to see the doctor as soon as I noticed the lump. I was now in the hands of the doctors.
“It’s not something which is easy to think about, knowing that if I hadn’t got myself checked and ignored the signs I could be telling a very different story today. Or not have been here to tell my story at all.
“Once it was confirmed that it was cancer and talk turned to treatment plans and operations I began to feel more positive about the situation. I kept reminding myself that I had caught the cancer early so the outlook was good and now I had a plan of action. I knew I was in very capable hands – all I could do now was stay optimistic and allow the experts to do their job.
“Although I wasn’t in full health, I couldn’t stand the thought of being off work for a long time so as soon as I felt well enough after having surgery to remove the lump, I went back. I just felt that if I was at home I’d dwell on the situation and I really didn’t want to. Working took my mind off everything.
“In August I started my chemotherapy which ran for about three months. I was still working while I underwent chemo, although I did decide to go to part time. It was tiring, but I wanted to keep my routine as normal as possible because it helped me to cope with the other changes going on in my life. Sometimes you just want a bit of normality and to feel in control– working gave me that feeling.
“At the end of my treatment I had a week off because you do get very tired, but I fully believe that it was working which kept me going. Seeing my colleagues and letting my brain focus on something other than my treatment plan and the constant stream of medical appointments was so important to me.
“After the chemotherapy I had a break in treatment over Christmas and then in January I began three weeks of radiotherapy. By March 2016 all of my treatments were wrapped up and I began to feel more like myself again.
“There is a chance that I might have reconstructive surgery on my breast in the future – we’ll see how everything heals – but apart from that and routine mammograms, everything is back to normal and I am in good health. It feels so nice to finally be able to say that!
“With my story I want to show people how important it is to be ‘breast aware’. Knowing what your breasts look and feel like, along with checking them regularly means it is so much easier to detect when something is wrong. Breast cancer is one of the most common and most talked about cancers, but lots of people still don’t take the time to check themselves or even know the signs.
“I want to show people that there is light at the end of the tunnel when you’re diagnosed with cancer. From start to finish I was positive about the whole process because I knew that I had done everything I could, and at the end of the day, that’s all you can do.
“Just make sure you know what’s normal for you and if something doesn’t feel right, get it checked out.”
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