Karen’s story

Karen was diagnosed in 2016 with inflammatory breast cancer.

About my diagnosis

I was diagnosed aged 49. My cancer was the rare Inflammatory cancer which was also aggressive making my cancer rare and unique. There was a lot of prodding and poking of my left breast. Because the doctors had not come across this type of cancer before. 

I had a mammogram and a biopsy. The funniest thing was being slid into a big machine to do a body scan. I fitted very nicely into this machine. But at a later test I filled it. I was mortified.

After some further tests, prior to a pre planned break to Windsor - in which I enjoyed a trip to the castle which was wonderful. The devastating news came via a phone call whilst I was in a shop. The poor nurse who called me was hesitant. But I asked if it was what I thought it was. I didn't want her to say the C word. She confirmed this. An appointment was made to go to hospital that Friday. I was in my garden on the Thursday. I shouted and screamed and cried as I knew my life was now going to change.

My treatment

My treatment plan was six rounds of chemo every 3 weeks. After the first chemo my urine was a lovely pink which I had been told to expect. But it was still strange to see pink rather than yellow. At least I knew the chemo was in. I took steroids which eventually increased my weight to 17 stone and 6 pounds which happened to be my pregnancy weight. LOL. Six days after chemo I injected myself with another drug to help my white blood cells. So my body was ok for the next round of chemo. 

Half an hour or so after my chemo I was very sick and nauseous. This resulted in a week off sick from my job as a Civil Servant. Then I had some annual leave pre booked - which happened to be a couple of weeks after each chemo treatment. It was at this fortuitous time that my husband suggested going to Worthing on the south coast - near Brighton - to see his relatives. And see if I would enjoy different scenery and fresh air. At this point it was a running joke that hospital was my second home so change of scenery was called for.

So my 50th birthday was spent in Worthing. I didn't think about anything and I was able to relax more. At this time I couldn't walk far without severe breathlessness and fatigue. I knew it was the treatment. But I did feel like an old crock!!! But the sea air was refreshing and welcome. I would recommend this as a welcome respite to anyone.

Then just after returning from Worthing I had a left side mastectomy on 31st October 2016. I had a long recovery as my wound took time to heal. I had physio and then radiotherapy in February 2017. I cannot thank all the NHS staff at Doncaster Royal Infirmary enough for their kindness, empathy and support. I cannot remember their names only faces. But they certainly know me. My recovery is still ongoing with 4 weekly injections and exemestane tablets for total of 5 years. My treatment has been nothing short of a miracle and I thank my lucky stars every day.

My life after cancer

I was told cancer would return in 3 years. But fortunately, it did not happen. I still struggle with fatigue and breathlessness. I am now with the Late Effects team in Sheffield which is also a great help. I firmly believe that my stubbornness and refusal to give in has helped me enormously. Coupled with the great help from my husband and kids. 

I have told cancer that it is not welcome. I do not want it back as I have a life to live, kids to see grow up with one still at school. Each injection is one less towards five years and it has brought me peace and happiness especially when in Worthing. I also cannot thank my husband enough as I know I would probably not be here if not for him and our kids. He had been my unofficial taxi, held me when I have had temper tantrums and seen me at my very worst.

Last reviewed: 
11 Jun 2021
Next review due: 
09 Jun 2023

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