Cancer stories

Vivien’s story

I was 31 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was pure chance that I found a lump – I was putting on my bra and I felt it. I saw my GP, who examined me and sent me for tests.

I had a mammogram, an ultrasound and a fine needle biopsy. The biopsy showed that it was cancer and that it was oestrogen receptor positive, and the ultrasound showed some spread.

I wasn’t happy with the treatment option recommended by the first specialist my GP referred me to, so I asked for a second opinion. I decided it was my life and my choice. The new specialist suggested I have a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

I had a reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy. The surgeon used muscle and some skin from my back to create a pocket for an implant. 

Recovering from surgery was a slow process, but I felt a little better each day. Because the muscle was removed from my back, I’m still weaker on that side of my body. At one point, I couldn’t stretch my arm properly and I panicked, but gradually I was able to move it again.

I had chemo for eight months and I worked during treatment because I wanted to maintain a normal life. I lost my hair and a lot of weight, and it felt like I was constantly nauseous. I was also very tired – I would go to bed really early.

I chose not to have radiation therapy because my doctor told me there was a chance the scarring from the reconstruction might not heal as well if I did.

It’s important to play an active role in your treatment, because it’s your life and body. This is especially important when you’re diagnosed young, like I was.

This information was last reviewed in July 2016
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