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Using information to help me cope with my cancer

Allison Hernandez is a community nurse in Scotland. Here she explains how reliable information on cancer helped to support her and her family through her experience of breast cancer.

Allison Hernandez

Discovering a lump

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. I had a cough for about 6 months. It didn’t particularly worry me and I never for a minute thought that it could be a symptom of cancer. It was only when a lump appeared on my chest that my husband insisted I go to my GP. As I suspected, a chest infection had developed and the GP gave me a course of antibiotics. He thought the lump on my chest was a protruding rib. I knew this wasn’t right due to its position, but I still didn’t suspect cancer. I had to return after I finished my course of antibiotics to get the lump checked but I thought it would just fade away. At my follow up appointment I saw a different GP. She thoroughly examined me and referred me to a breast specialist for further investigation. This was where a diagnosis of advanced breast cancer was confirmed. I had several tumours and needed surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Dealing with my diagnosis

Dealing with the diagnosis was difficult. I have 2 young boys and the worst runs through your head. I was worried about them growing up without a mum more than I was worried about what was going to happen to me. I was scared about their future and felt helpless. That’s when I started looking for information. Dealing with cancer is a roller coaster ride of emotions. Sometimes I’d feel strong and able to handle what was ahead. Other times I’d feel so low I didn’t know how I would go on. What I did know was that I wanted to understand everything. Educating myself on my cancer and my treatment options made me feel much more in control and less anxious.

I’m glad that I found CancerHelp UK and Cancer Chat at such an early stage in my treatment and would recommend both of them to others. Going onto Cancer Chat and reading other people’s questions and answers was so comforting. I thought I was the only one with questions that I was too embarrassed to ask. I was worried my cancer specialist would think they were silly. Cancer Chat made me realise that other people have the same questions and that no questions you have are stupid. I liked that I could go on anonymously, in the middle of the night if I wanted to. I never decided to post any questions but just being part of the community and knowing other people were going through the same thing was a real comfort.

I didn’t know for some time that my husband found the information on CancerHelp UK really useful too. It helped him to get his head around what was happening to me and feel less in the dark. I only realised this one evening when I looked at our recent internet searches and saw what he had been looking at. He wanted to support me as much as he could. By educating himself on what was happening, it helped to ease his anxieties too.

After my chemotherapy I decided to go back to work. They were very supportive and flexible. It gave me another focus other than cancer, hospital appointments and tests. I still looked at the Cancer Research UK website, often the news section, to find out about cancer developments or any new drugs that I could speak to my cancer specialist about. I also used it to check that any side effects from my treatment were to be expected. I have found at every stage that I had so many questions which I wanted answers to.

The future

Now I am taking tamoxifen and my treatment is going as well as can be expected. I’m remaining positive about the future with my husband and 2 boys and glad for the information that I found through Cancer Research UK. It really has helped me every step of the way.

Factfile

  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. In 2008, there were 48,034 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed
  • Treatment includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy and biological therapy
  • 8 out of 10 women now survive breast cancer for more than five years, compared with 5 out of 10 women in the 1970s

More information

On CancerHelp UK there is detailed information about

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Updated: 7 October 2011