Aishah’s story

I never could have guessed at the age of 33, I’d be an official member of the breast cancer club. But that is exactly what happened.

I feel like most people think I’m exaggerating when I tell how my story starts, but I promise I’m not. One night I went to bed fine and the next morning I woke up in excruciating pain. Because of how quickly it came on, I assumed it was a bad bruise. My son was only 18 months old at the time and anyone who either has had or has been around young children will know they like to use you as a human climbing frame. My son would constantly climb on top of me and use my breasts to push himself up. In addition, with the pain came swelling. Not a lump, swelling. All the tell-tale signs of a bruise.

After about a month the pain subsided and I would only get twinges every now and again. But because the pain hadn’t completely gone away and there was still some swelling in my breast, my husband and mother urged me to go to the GP. I put it off and off and finally after a few months of them nagging me I booked an appointment.

Whilst at the GP, I was almost apologetic as I felt like I was wasting her time for something insignificant. She assured me that I had done the right thing by coming in and even if it was just a bruise she was more than happy to see me and assess the situation. Within 30 seconds of my examination, the GP could pinpoint where my pain was without me having to say. She felt the swelling, but was confident that as it wasn’t a lump that there was no cause for concern and that it was probably just a cyst. She referred me to the hospital anyway for further testing to be sure.

3 weeks later, I was at the hospital. Again I was told that I didn’t present with a lump, but as my breast was swollen I would be sent for an ultrasound to determine if anything further needed doing. In the same appointment, I was taken for an ultrasound where the sonographers told me it appeared I had fibrodenomas – very common benign tumours that tend to go away on their own.  I was sent straight back to the doctor to discuss next steps and my options. At this point, the doctor told me that I would be sent for a biopsy within the next week, but that this was only happening because I was over the age of 30. The ultrasound wasn’t a cause for concern but protocol dictated that I had to have the biopsy.

After my biopsy, the consultant explained that I would be called back in within two weeks to discuss my results but that this was again protocol and not to be alarmed with having to go back into the hospital. With my letter, I was told I could bring someone so my husband offered to drive me to my follow up. Because this was 2021 and covid protocols were still partially in place, my husband had to wait in the hospital hallway whilst I went to discuss my results. At this point as every person I had seen had reassured me that I had nothing to worry about, I was confident going in to the hospital that they were going to say that everything was fine.

I walked into the room and in hindsight should have guessed that bad news was coming my way when there was a nurse sat in the corner as well as the doctor in front of me. The next 10 minutes were a blur. The doctor sat drawing me diagrams of breasts and using jargon I’d never heard of before and asked me if I understood what she was telling me. I didn’t but I just nodded along trying to take everything in. After another few minutes, I had to stop her and ask the question that I knew in my heart that she had been trying to tell me for the last 5 minutes. “Are you telling me I have breast cancer?” “Yes I am, but you have the best kind. We couldn’t have caught this any sooner.”

At that point I was diagnosed with DCIS. Stage 0 breast cancer that is confined to the breast ducts only and isn’t invasive where it can spread to the rest of the body. Some specialists refer to it as pre-cancer.

After a few tears trickled down my face, I looked at her and asked what the plan was and how they were going to make me better. The nurse asked me if I’d brought anyone with me and I explained my husband was waiting in the hallway. She went to get him. I’ll never forget his face when the doctor told him what she had just told me. The colour completely drained away and he looked like he was going to pass out. The doctor and nurse were more concerned about him at that point then me. Really funny to look back on now.

The next day I was back in for an MRI and a week later further biopsies. Then about 3 weeks later, I met with my consultant, the man who would be looking after me for the rest of my journey. He explained that with all my further testing, although they couldn’t determine anything more than DCIS at that point, the mass was covering approximately 11cm of my breast and was classed as high grade. There was no way he could save my breast and I would be having a mastectomy. 

One month later, exactly one week after my 34th birthday, I had a single mastectomy, lymph node biopsy and breast reconstruction surgery. Today, I am cancer free.

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