My name is Cassie Shuttleworth and I’m from Manchester, England. I was diagnosed with stage 2, HER2+ breast cancer at age 32. I had six rounds of chemo, a lumpectomy, 20 days of radiation, targeted therapy for a year and am now on tamoxifen tablets for the next 10 years.
When people think about you having cancer, the immediate things that spring to mind for most people (including myself before I was diagnosed), is that you’re going to be bald, look pale and throw up a lot. It’s all the little things that come with it that nobody warns you of. The weak nails, the aches and pains, the losing of your taste, the dry mouth, the toilet problems — I could go on.
I was petrified when I got told it was cancer and nervous about the uncertainty and the first question I asked my doctor was “Am I going to die?” (Still sends shivers down my spine when I think about it). I started chemo not long after having emergency IVF treatment first. As with most women, the thought of losing your hair is a tough thing to swallow and I had long thick hair down to my bum. To my surprise however when it come to shaving it off I felt some sense of relief and control and to be fair I was giving a young Sinead O’Connor a run for her money — haha. I was more upset when my brows and lashes fell out because then I couldn’t hide the fact that I was ill; it was pretty obvious.
I spent a while being angry that this had happened to me thinking “why me” but then one day I thought “why not me?” What makes me more special than anyone else and my whole attitude changed completely. I dealt with my journey with as much positivity and humour as I could gather. Don’t get me wrong, there were some dark days but they weren’t as frequent as the positive ones and luckily I had a great support network around me which I will be forever grateful for and they didn’t treat me any differently. One of my friends even got me a card that said “Sorry your boobs tried to kill you.”
While getting treatment, one of the things I did was try and guess what the most inappropriate song would be that came on the hospital radio while I was having chemo. Nothing beat “I can’t live if living is without you” by Mariah Carey. I also made sure I had lots of different hats, my favourite one being a unicorn hat that had long hair that I would wear for each chemo session, which would always put a smile on everyone’s face at the hospital. One of the funny things I remember with having breast cancer was I used to have to strip from the waist up so that I could be examined, prodded and poked pretty much every time I saw a doctor. One appointment I went to I came into the room and started to get undressed as usual and the doctor came in and said “no no, we’re not examining you today, it was just a follow up.” I quickly put my clothes back on and couldn’t look him in the face for the rest of the appointment. I am now in remission and slowly putting my life back together again and getting used to my “new normal.” Cancer is a scary thing and can strip you of your identity to the point where you don’t recognise the person looking in the mirror but it’s actually not all bad. You become part of a community of people who understand exactly what you’re going through and it totally changes your perspective on life and makes you realise what and who is important and believe it or not, that is something that I’ve got cancer to thank for.
I am going to do my best to live my life to the fullest because I now realise that we’re here for a good time... not a long time.