From Breastfeeding to Mastectomy

breast cancer awareness month

Anna is a member of an Internet parenting forum that I joined when I was trying to get pregnant for the first time. I remember seeing her online signature then, which made reference to surviving breast cancer, and thinking – wow, imagine having to deal with that whilst parenting a small child. And then it happened to me. Anna is now more than ten years on from diagnosis, which gives such hope for those of us still in the early years. Thank you Anna for sharing your story.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2003. My son was 6 months old.

How the cancer was found is perhaps the most interesting part of my story.  I had grown up on a farm, surrounded by animals , so I knew a fair bit about reproduction and the cycles of life. I was paranoid about getting mastitis.  My son had been feeding really well, and then started rejecting one breast by just biting at it rather than feeding.  I must admit did not think much about it at first, rather than a very big OUCH.

But as time went on and he still refused to feed from that breast, I noticed a lump. Still terrified it was mastitis coming on ,I went and saw my GP. Thankfully, she took the lump very seriously and didn’t simply put it down to the normal lumpiness associated with breast-feeding. Instead, she sent me for an ultrasound, which came back with questions, and then on to a fine need biopsy and mammogram. Neither are fun when you are breastfeeding.

My son had his last feed the next day, as I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and had a mastectomy a few days later.

My surgeon was brilliant. Originally it was thought the cancer was only in the ducts (known as ductal carcinoma in situ or DCIS), and so she was happy for me to try continue breastfeeding on the other breast post surgery, but I must admit it all seemed too hard (both physically and emotionally), so I was given drugs to stop the milk. The fact that my breasts were producing milk made me more susceptible to infection, so the stay in hospital for the mastectomy was longer than expected. I also had a second operation the next day as pathology showed the cancer was actually invasive ductal carcinoma (or IDC where the cancer has spread outside the milk ducts), so I needed to have lymph nodes removed.

My son was  suddenly was weaned on to bottles, and cared for by my husband for 1o days while I was in hospital.  They would come in to the hospital each day, I had the portacot in my room for my son during the day, with my husband there to help me care for him.

I had chemotherapy post mastectomy, which finished before my son’s first birthday.

At his birthday party my hair, which had just started growing, was the same length as my son’s. I was happy to tell my son’s god father, that whilst our hair was short, at least it was growing, unlike his…

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