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Coping after treatment finishes

Fiona was only 36 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. With the support of friends and family she got through her treatment. Here, Fiona explains how she felt when her treatment finished.

Fiona and family

My diagnosis

In December 2007 I noticed a lump in my breast. My GP referred me to the breast clinic where I had a mammogram and biopsy. A week later I met with the consultant and breast care nurse who told me the devastating news that I had breast cancer.

Treatment and support

I had surgery to remove the cancer followed by 6 cycles of FEC chemotherapy. I then had 4 weeks of radiotherapy to the breast. My friends and family were a great support during this time, and so I felt I didn’t need too much input from the health professionals. The hardest part was explaining to everyone what was happening, like what treatment I was having and when. Every time I told someone, it left me feeling more and more anxious. So before I had my operation I started a blog, which my friends and family could read. I kept this updated throughout my treatment and it was uplifting to read the comments and messages left by friends.

I didn’t go to any support groups during this time, but I did find it helpful to talk to women having treatment at the same time as me. My aunt had been treated for breast cancer in the past and she passed on some useful tips about getting through it.

I tried to remain positive throughout this experience. Fortunately for me I felt well enough to work for a week in between each cycle of chemotherapy. This gave me something to focus on and provided some normality.

Coping after treatment

When I finished my radiotherapy I assumed that I would feel relieved and just get on with my life. But I was surprised at how difficult I found not going to the hospital every day. My first follow up appointment wasn’t for 6 months and this felt quite a big jump. I felt quite isolated, particularly as my friends, who had been so supportive during my treatment, understandably drifted away as they continued with their own lives.
It sounds a strange thing to say but part of me missed the feeling of being ‘special’. I had time to think about what I had been through and wanted to try and make sense of it all. It was during this time that I used the breast care nurses at the hospital. They were able to support me over the phone and would see me in between my follow up appointments if I was worried about anything.

I went back to work about six weeks after I finished radiotherapy. That helped me get back into a routine, although it has still taken some time to readjust. Having two young children means I have to keep things as normal as possible. And they have kept me going throughout both my treatment and my recovery.

Although the thought of cancer is always at the back of my mind, it has become more manageable with time. Since finishing my treatment I have done some fundraising for Cancer Research UK and the Royal Marsden Cancer Campaign, and it helps to feel that in sharing my experiences, I can support people I know who have recently been diagnosed with cancer.

Factfile

  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK with around 48,000 people diagnosed each year
  • Fiona was unusual to be diagnosed with breast cancer in her 30s - most breast cancers are diagnosed in women over 50
  • FEC (fluorouracil, epirubicin, cyclophosphamide) chemotherapy is one of several different combinations of drugs doctors use to treat breast cancer
  • The main treatments for breast cancer are surgery, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy and biological treatments such as Herceptin – you may have some or all these treatments
  • More women are surviving breast cancer than ever before

On CancerHelp UK, there is information about

Sharing your story

The Your tips and stories section of CancerHelp UK provides tips and support for people currently coping with cancer and treatment. You can use the Your tips and stories contribution form to tell us how you coped, so that other people with cancer, or their families, can gain help and support from your stories.

Some people help Cancer Research UK by sharing their stories in other ways – talking to the media, appearing in a Cancer Research UK advert, speaking to volunteers or being featured on our website. Read more about sharing your story.

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Updated: 2 February 2011