The C Word

by - 5/11/2016

I really do not know where to begin with this post or even how to explain why I'm writing it. I've learnt that when I write about a snippet of my personal life and upload it to the internet, there's always a backlash of negativity, and therefore, I feel obliged to justify everything I post. However, I'm not going to justify this one. This one is on my blog because it's an experience and journey I'm going through and I want to spread awareness in order to help others. Although I've alluded to this "situation" publically, I have kept things very hush-hush, as honestly, I really didn't and still don't know how to completely deal with it. I hope that this post isn't too gritty to read - I've tried my best to keep it simple and I've included a few happy snaps from the past few months throughout (just as a reminder that it isn't all misery and doom, haha).

In mid-August, 2015, I discovered a small lump in my left breast. It was no more than 1-1.5cm in diameter. I still remember the night and I don't remember being that worried about it. I was cuddling up with my boyfriend, about to watch a film when my hand pressed into my chest at an awkward angle, and I felt it. I discussed it there and then with my boyfriend and we both agreed that I would ring the doctors' surgery as soon as possible. 

After numerous appointments, my doctor determined it to be a fibroadenoma. This is a firm breast lump that moves around easily under the breast and is very common in young women. It's a mix of fibrous and glandular tissue and is most commonly benign. At this point, I find it crucial to point out that fibroadenomas (at this stage) aren't (usually) cancerous and they don't increase the risk of developing breast cancer. I was told that my lump was nothing to worry about and that it should disappear in due course. For those interested, the diagnosis process included an examination of my breasts and a mammogram. 

By the time Christmas came around, my lump had grown even more. It was starting to become painful and I resorted to over-the-counter painkillers. It was now 2-2.5cm in diameter and growing. I visited my doctors' surgery, and they started testing me again. Again, for anyone interested, the same procedures as before were carried out, but this time with a needle biopsy.

From the day I found the lump to around Christmas time, I was very much in the "I'll be alright, it's nothing serious" mindset. We always think "nothing like this will ever happen to me". I remember sitting around the day after boxing day and thinking back to PSE classes in school. I remembered my teacher telling me that in a class of thirty students, ten were likely to develop cancer. That's when I started to break down the odds. I knew that being realistic was the best option, but I urged myself to be as collected and positive about it as possible. 

A photo of Jerome and I from Christmas day.

Shortly after the new year, the lump had grown to a worrying 6-7cm in diameter. The pain was more intense and I was really starting to feel pessimistic, upset and miserable. I tried to keep my calm around people, even my boyfriend. But, if you know me, you'll know that I'm one of those oh-so-annoying people that allows their feelings and emotions build up and eventually explode. This happened frequently. I started to distance myself from friends and I tried to keep myself distracted by working 30 hours a week, doing ridiculous amounts of uni work, Make-Up Artistry training, blogging and spending the remaining time with my boyfriend (not doing much, just binge-watching trashy television and all that good stuff). 

The lovely Sophie taking me on a night out and introducing me to West Street Live's strawberry rum!

In late February, I decided to take a short blogging and work hiatus (insert a massive thank-you to my managers who have been very supportive and awesome - thanks). I definitely needed the time to not only spend with my boyfriend but to spend it focusing solely on getting through university exam period. Now, within this time, I got a lot of indirect and direct messages/tweets/comments/whatever saying that I was being paid to do absolutely nothing. This is true. But, I work hard and I am fully entitled do as I please. This is another one of those moments when I urge people to be kind and to not judge a person's life choices if you know nothing about their life!

February: a few days away in Edinburgh with Jerome visiting family and friends.

In this break, I was still frequently visiting the doctors and being tested. One day, I was in so much pain that I had to ring a taxi and visit A&E. I now know how ridiculous this sounds because I hadn't done anything to myself to inflict an actual emergency injury. But, I didn't know where else to go (P.S. shout out to the City Taxis taxi driver who drove me to the hospital super fast and didn't charge me - what a kind man). I was taken to the breast clinic by a nurse practitioner and once again, testing began. Note to anyone going through a similar situation -  biopsies don't actually hurt as much as you think they're going to, but, the anaesthetic and gas and air does make you utterly delirious!

I won't go into too much depth regarding the other tests that were carried out as some contain hereditary information which isn't fair to publish and will remain confidential. After months of poking and prodding, I was finally diagnosed with a small amount of DCIS cells (ductal carcinoma in situ cells) amongst a tumour of fibrous and glandular tissue that was benign. DCIS cells are the earliest developing cells with regards to breast cancer. They lie in the ducts and haven't spread to the remaining breast tissue. As it stands, my tumour is for the most part consists of the benign tissues and so isn't classified as invasive. We still have no idea why these cells didn't show in any of the mammograms - the most probable theory was that it simply wasn't there last August or even at Christmas. Again, reiterating that my tumour is most part benign (thanking the universe) and has been caught early. Technicalities mean that the tumour doesn't have a high enough ratio of cancerous:benign cells to technically be called a full cancer, however, a part of the contained tumour is cancerous. But, when you're facing something like this, technicalities go out of the window and everything is suddenly so black and white.

It has taken me weeks to wrap my head around everything that's happening. I still have trouble sleeping (although, this could be down to the excessive amount of KUWTK and Castle that I've been binge watching at bedtime lately). Suddenly, everywhere I went, I started to notice "Let's talk about cancer" signs. I started to think about it constantly and put myself into a cycle of self-hate and self-pity. I'm not going to sit behind my laptop screen and fool everyone into thinking that I'm completely under control because I'm not. It makes me feel sick and upset every single day. And, I know I should be thankful because "other people have it worse", but sometimes you have to stop comparing your problems and accept that you're in a shit situation in order to move forward. It's almost as if I finally found a way to beat down my anxiousness and depressive states and then... boom. Life strikes again. I could go on and on about how saddening this is, but I'm trying (believe me, I'm trying) to put a positive spin on all of this. Surgery dates are being arranged and within the next few weeks, I'll hopefully have this god-awful lump out of me. I'm finding new things every day to keep me motivated to move forward. The two main things are finishing uni for the summer and going on holiday. I liiiittterrrally cannot wait to be exploring the Balearic Islands, laying on a beach with a cocktail in each hand - and then, the week after, we're jetting off to Norway for an exciting (slightly colder) adventure!

As I'm progressing, I find it harder and harder to find a comfortable bra to wear. Over the past year and a half, my bra size has gone from a 34D to a 34DDD (34E) - for both boobs. This is due to a combination of hormonal changes (boo) and gaining weight (double boo). I needed a bra or bralet which provided enough support for my boobs whilst also keeping them comfortable. I cannot even begin to reel off the names of the lingerie stores I tried to purchase a bra from because the list is so extensive. For anyone going through a similar situation, or for my fuller-bust ladies, I've noted a quick list of the bras I wear non-stop now. I've even thrown in pictures. Don't get your hopes up, though - they're just boring flat lays

The first is the Kendal bralet from eLCy Clothing. I was kindly gifted this by the lovely Lauren from eLCy quite a while ago. It's the perfect in-between support and comfort piece. It allows my boobs to be supported without encasing them fully. Pieces are handmade which means that you can ask for special adjustments (lining etc). Shop the Kendal bralet for £30 here.

The second is my beloved caged back bra from Victoria's Secret. I got this whilst I was working there so I'm not sure on the exact price. I'm pretty sure it's old stock as I can't find it online either. You can check out some VS and VS Pink bralets here.

This one's from New Look. It has a really wide back and band, providing a lot of support. Extra pretty with the caged detailing and lace. Shop New Look bralets here (10% student discount).

This last one I've had for around two years and I've never really worn until now. Even more surprisingly, it was a weird impulse buy... from Sainsbury's.

I cannot urge you enough, ladies (and gents), check yourself. Get a friend or your partner to check underneath you boobies. Have a real good squish and feel and get everything checked out - no matter how small and insignificant it may seem. Even if you can't feel anything and you have pain, get it checked out. It's definitely better to be safe than otherwise.

Whilst I completely appreciate the support and positivity that I've received so far, I do ask for just one thing: please respect my loved ones' privacy. The last thing I want is for my boyfriend, best friends, family to be bombarded with the "I hope you're okay" or "I'm always here for you" messages or questions regarding the situation (if you have any questions, please direct them straight to me). By publishing this post, I don't intend to cause an uproar or a debate about why I'm actually doing this. This is merely an update, an open letter to the world and blogging community... an explanation, if you like. When I was browsing the internet for support, all I came across was NHS or WebMed sites which were very blunt (yet factual, may I add). It made me scared and worried. There was nothing personal for me to relate to. I hope that by publishing this, that I can help or support people, even if it's just the one person - at least I'll have made a difference. Over the past 10 months that this has been going on, I've distanced myself from a lot of people. If anyone's going through this - please don't do what I did. You're going to need as much love and support and positivity as possible to help you. Keep your friends close. Unfortunately, I've also come to that dreaded point of 'knowing who my real friends are'. That's life. I very much think that this entire process is just about acceptance and moving forward. That's what I've been doing and that is what I will continue to do.

Now, obviously, I want to raise money for charity. I'm currently in the process of deciding what I want to do and how to go about it (I'd appreciate suggestions!). Ironically, I can't do Race For Life because I can't run without being in pain... unless you're allowed to walk it, in which case, I'll look into it. I have a giveaway going live on my blog within the next few weeks. I can't really say much due to blogging rules, but, it involves a lot of pink goodies - so keep an eye out for that!

There are so many support channels out there. I found my nurses and doctor to be so supportive and understanding, even funny at times. We joked about things regularly, which makes everything seem a little more manageable and less serious. If anyone is going through a similar situation or is just curious, I've linked a few useful websites below.

I'd like to say a big thank you to my friend Emma. Em, thank you for being so level-headed and collected. Thanks for taking me on shopping trips and out for burgers and coffee constantly (even if I have gained 100000lbs because of it). 

A compliation of weird Snapchats of Emma and I. I know, the face-swap is baaaad. 

Now on to the soppy part (secretly my fave part)... I do not know how I would have coped with all of my emotional breakdowns without my boyfriend - or if I would have coped at all. If there could only be one piece of advice I could give, it would be to surround yourself with people you love and that love you back. He's been there for me 100%. He's put his own life, problems and work on hold to be the best friend and best boyfriend in the world. Thank you, Jerome, for showing me every single day that life is worth living, even when I feel as though it's not. xx

Two drunken, happy photos of Jerome and I.

Unfortunately, I now have to get into the boring disclaimer part of the blog post. Although I said before, I'm not going to justify my need or want to write this blog post, I will just say that this post was not in any way to grab some attention or any other ridiculous excuses people may come up with. I wanted to share my experiences and hopefully reach out to other women going through the same thing and create a loving, judgement-free community in which we can all discuss and share our thoughts, experiences etc.

Comments on this post will be disabled but if you would like to discuss anything with me, feel free to reach me via the Contact form in the sidebar of my blog. All messages will now be directed straight to my inbox and inaccessible by any blog or PR management and thus, kept confidential.

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