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Suck It Up

My name is Helen and I am 37 and live in Wales in the UK. I was diagnosed with grade 3 triple negative breast cancer two days before my birthday in Nov 2018 (happy birthday to me). I had a lumpectomy in Dec 2018, fertility treatment in Jan 2019, six rounds of chemo starting in February and finished in May 2019, followed by 25 rounds of radiotherapy which finished in July 2019. Busy year yeh!!

Prior to cancer I had beautiful, long, healthy, highlighted golden hair and eyelashes to die for (excuse the pun). I had my hair cut in the January in preparation for the dreaded Taxotere, but didn’t quite anticipate how fast it would come out. Chemo started on a Friday and by the following Thursday I was having it all shaved off. Luckily for me I was blessed with a fantastic shaped skull and could carry off the bald look -- what I didn’t expect was to lose my long, full, black gorgeous eyelashes.

I looked at myself in the mirror one day to see a bald, fat (steroids cheers for that), eyelash-less person who I didn’t recognise, add all of that to the horrific mouth sores and I looked like something only Steven Spielberg could create. Turns out the mouth sores and ulcers were oral thrush. THRUSH!! I had never had thrush in my life never mind in my mouth. I was a mess!!

My skin began peeling on my fingers and feet, my boob was swelling with a huge seroma fluid build up and I had lost feeling in my fingers and toes (I now know to be neuropathy). I had been pretty good not having any breakdowns up to this point and just dealing with everything that was being thrown my way, but sweet Jesus this was testing me.

I Facetimed my brother who lives in New York as he was my go-to person on down days. I explained all my symptoms and basically wanted him to just agree with me and maybe even cry with me a little. I expressed that I wasn’t sure if I could go through another round of chemo and how down I was feeling as well as being in pain.

His response was "Well let’s be fair it was time to get rid of the long hair as it was a bit dated, your eyelashes were not really all that anyway (he was always jealous of my lashes) and you’ll shed the weight as your mouth is too sore to eat, so not sure what you are bitching for. Now suck it up and do what you need to do to get rid of this cancer." He then said "I’m in work and gotta go" and hung up.

I burst into laughter as literally was not expecting that from him. We had many moments during my journey of laughter. It always came at the right time, just when I needed it or we as a family needed it. Having fun and laughing has always been a big thing in my family and friends' circle. To be able to keep it going at such a rough time in our lives has brought us all so much closer together and for that I am grateful.

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