‘My experience of the C word’ by Hannah Mills

My name is Hannah and I got diagnosed with breast cancer on 25 July 2015 when I was 25 which to many people is young but the C word has no favourites. When I got told I went numb and didn’t hear a lot else. My mum cried, but my words were “I’ll be ok mum don’t worry” and from that moment of being told what needed to happen I was like, right I am going to kick this and beat it! I was told I needed a lumpectomy at first in my right breast just behind my nipple, so I thought its been caught early yay. But after an MRI I was called back in to hear that it had spread very quickly all in my right breast and I needed a mastectomy and the nipple was being taken away too. So on the 13 August I went down to surgery at Ipswich Hospital ( that I’m afraid to say I’m no stranger to anyway) for my right breast to be removed and reconstruction at the same time. I had one of the top surgeons. She was outstanding from the beginning and through the post op process. I stayed in hospital overnight and was then able to go home. I had a drain still attached which was hard to deal with at first and I did try to keep smiling and laugh through the recovery of all of this. This was the start of a two week supposedly of my summer holiday as I work in a school.

I have a passion for fitness and zumba and swimming and baking and dancing. Well as i needed help with the simplest of tasks like getting dressed or going down stairs I started to find things very tough as I realised I was stuck on the sofa for weeks and I hated it. I was assigned a cancer nurse. She was amazing and always smiling and upbeat. Even when she told me the drain couldn’t come out after the two weeks she was there because i wanted to cry. The day the drain came out I felt free and even though it was hard to walk how I used to and still do basic things I was smiling again. I felt awesome! To celebrate this event I went to zumba. I watched of course but I felt normal even though I could not move my right side of my upper body. I was happy to be where i loved!

Chemo was next. It sounds scary. I had to have chemo for six months, plus a year of herceptin injections in my leg and five years of tamoxifen {another hormonal drug} on top of that. The cancer nurses were amazing and always smiled and there was lots of laughter. Which helped as it was a scary time. I Started my first chemo on the 25th September at 3pm. My aim was just to deal with it but I knew it would involve a cannula, and that for me was the hardest part of the chemo. I have been a pin cushion since I was born, so needles were my enemy. But my nurse was brilliant and made me feel calm and relaxed as she put the needle on my hand. She then had to give me 5 syringes of medication. The one I remember was a huge syringe with red liquid in which was the main chemo drug. I was given anti sickness and hair loss syringes. We chatted about what I loved doing and what I did. This often took a good few hours but I didn’t mind, I was happy. Odd, I know.

I started to make treats for the nurses each time I went up for my chemo. Which they loved and soon enough as the months ticked by, even though it was getting harder to put a needle in, I kept smiling. Yes, there were tears every time the needle went in, but i was fine after that. Soon enough January 8th arrived. It was my last chemo. I was so happy to have finished. However, the treatment was not over as the herceptin and tamoxifen started next.

The injections in my leg each month was not the hard part. The hard part was realising that my periods got worse and I ended up needing to have exploratory surgery to make sure I didn’t have cervical cancer. I was lucky and they could not see anything. I was sent to a place in Colchester to see about freezing my eggs ready for when my treatment had finished. I was told it was the easiest way to make sure I could have children. But it was not to be. I was given the news that i was going through early menopause which was triggered by my diabetes and the chemo. That had finished my chance of having children. I felt cross and frustrated and I hated my body. I thought I’m 26 years old and I can’t have children. This really does suck! Over time I got used to it. My herceptin had not worked so my amazing nurse specialist put me on zoladex for two years. It was in my tummy every month so when i thought i had seen the last of the cancer unit, i was back again. The two years went very quickly and it was working as the hot flushes and sweating started with a vengeance! March 22nd my last injection I made a cake for the nurses. It was a mixture of feelings as I had built friendships up over the last three years. I was sad to leave them but so happy to finish the injections.

With the side effects I was very lucky. I didn’t get many and I could eat just about normally. The chemo did affect me the second week each month. My skin was sore and I started to lose my hair. Just after the second round of chemo I knew I would. I just wasn’t expecting it to happen that fast. So my lovely hairdresser Dawn came to my house and shaved my head. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror for a while. After one comment i decided to get some wigs and head scarves and I got used to it very quickly. I was able to zumba still and I loved it. If I could not zumba Gabi my zumba instructor told me to do it on a chair which was easier. This was for when I felt more tired and not able to stand for long.

July 25th 2016 a year since I was told I had the C word is now celebrated for a different reason. I was matched with my first guide dog Joy. She made all the injections and hospital visits and blood tests a lot easier. By this time my hair was growing back and I was getting my strength back so I was back to swimming competitively and zumba for a full session without using a chair all the time. I was nearly back to my full fitness yippee!!! In October 2019 I was told by the lovely nurse specialist that i should not have come off zoladex and tamoxifen so November I was given my first of five more years worth.

Now in 2020 the injections continue but I am a lot fitter more than i have ever been before. I had the C word, so I have embarked on a new fitness journey where I am now helping others become fitter and stronger and healthier in themselves. Plus my usual passion for ((Bounce)) and zumba continue with laughter and fun and full on gusto. Yes i still have five years left of treatment but I am able to do what I like. I am working full time and having a fun filled life and also looking into becoming a foster carer. Being told you can’t have children can be tough but there are other ways of having a child even if it isn’t naturally.

I do have days where I don’t want the hot flushes or the night sweats or just the fact that I still have treatment to have until I am thirty six. But that’s ok and normal too. I have an amazing family and awesome friends who are always there for me when I need them. I am so lucky! I hope that this will give someone the confidence to keep going with treatment or know that it’s ok to have a down or off day.

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