Cancer? Who, Me? by Keely Freeman
3 weeks ago
My story of breast cancer diagnosis. I was getting undressed one evening, the same way I always get undressed. I slipped my bra strap off and somehow my hand brushed down the side of my breast and there it was. A lump. A small lump the size of a chickpea. I’m usually one to bottle stuff up and not make a fuss. My usual reaction would be to keep quiet and monitor in silence. But that evening, I walked into the bedroom and told my partner there and then “I think I’ve found a lump”. I went to sleep that night in a slight panic but kept thinking “it’s probably just nothing, right?”.
The next morning, I woke up and had a search for the lump. Urgh! It was still there. I called my doctor and was surprised to get an appointment the next day. I remember starting to feel silly, like I’d be wasting their time. I even thought about cancelling. I kept thinking that it was probably just a cyst or something and it would go away. I constantly checked it throughout the day, hoping it had disappeared. Still feeling slightly ridiculous, I went to the doctors the next day. It seems funny now, but I had used a Sharpie to draw a huge orange circle around where the lump was so the doctor could find it. It wasn’t that easy to find, I kept wondering how the heck I’d felt it whilst taking my bra off!? The first thing I said when I walked into the doctor’s room was “I feel a bit silly because it’s probably nothing, but I think there’s a lump”, still trying to underplay it. She popped me on the bed, had a feel and instantly said she’d refer me to the cancer clinic. I started to get dizzy from anxiety. She had said it. She had said the C word! Skip forward a week or so, and several hospital appointments later, I am waiting for biopsy results. At this point I still hadn’t told any family or friends because I was sure that it was probably nothing, a little calcification but nothing to worry about. But to everyone’s surprise, including the oncologist, who thought I was too young and healthy to have cancer, they diagnosed me with invasive ductal carcinoma and told me I’d need a mastectomy. That’s a lot to take in within a couple of minutes. I remember glancing around to my partner to check if he was ok! I was 34 at the time of diagnosis, the beginning of this year (2020), and considered young and fit. After diagnosis you suddenly become very aware of your body, not just from the outside, you start thinking about what’s actually going on on the inside. What went wrong in there? I take care of myself and like to think I’ve got a healthy diet and lifestyle. So, all the questions started to fly around my head. Could I have prevented this? What did I do wrong? Why me!? After the initial shock response, I managed to start thinking rationally and I set my main focus on how to help aid my body in its recovery. I knew I couldn’t change the fact I was diagnosed with cancer, and I knew I had to go through the process of removal and chemotherapy. I had to think about what is in my control and what could I do to make it all go a little more smoothly. This was my “Plan of Action” list:
- Breathing exercises are SO effective to help you stay calm and reduce anxiety. I struggle with basic meditation and find focusing on my breathing more effective for me. I love Pranayama or alternate nostril breathing with a drop of essential oil on my palm. Frankincense is my go-to. Not only does it smell great, it has so many healing properties.
- The power of positive thinking! I tell myself every day how amazing my body is. You literally have the power to think yourself into a better state both physically and mentally
- I picture my body ridding itself of cancer cells. In the shower I’d visualise washing them away and replacing them with a bright light. Imagine that light filling your body. Doing this alongside affirmations is especially powerful. Sounds kooky I know but it really helped me mentally.
- I excluded all sugars and inflammatory foods like gluten to help aid my body with a faster recovery and also just to improve my overall health.
- Exercise, nothing too crazy, just some light cardio and movement, especially for my arms and shoulders. I knew this was important before surgery so I could produce muscle memory to help me regain mobility faster after the mastectomy.
- Find joy. Sing, Dance, skate! Whatever would make me feel happy.
I want to have a positive mindset throughout this journey because it feels right. I have experienced some guilt for feeling this way - for not feeling upset or devastated like many assumed I’d feel. When people ask me how I am, they’re genuinely surprised when I answer, “I’m great!”. That’s not to say I never have down days. I know it’s important to let the emotions out. I just try to think rationally. I’ll go back to my breathing, take some deep breaths and move on. I know this isn’t how everyone feels after cancer diagnosis, but I want people to know it’s OK to feel positive! There’s no right or wrong way to react to the situation. I have spent so many nights on the internet reading other women’s experiences but found I couldn’t resonate with the majority of them.
I always ended up asking myself why I didn't feel sad. It’s easy to hear the word Cancer and think that’s it, there’s no going back. But thinking like that is not the only option. I like to think of it like having broken leg. For me, there’s a fairly long healing process but I’ll be able to walk again afterwards. I don’t even feel like I have cancer, I know it’s in there, or was. Maybe there’s some floating around my body still but we’re (me and the docs) doing our best to get rid of it. I’m still me though, even with no hair and a PICC line sticking out my arm! I’m on a journey. I’m healing. I’m happy. I’m positive I can heal. My body is a powerful healing machine. My body is strong. I love my body. Repeat 3 times You can follow Keely's journey on Instagram: @pookys_page See some of her posts below:
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