October – breast cancer month

Each October we ask women across Northern Ireland to hold a fun Girls’ Night In with their friends to help raise funds for breast cancer research that we fund at Queen’s University Belfast.

For more information and to get your Pink Party Pack call Cancer Focus NI on 028 9066 3281, email fundraising@cancerfocusni.org or fill out the form below.

Here ,Karen Case, a fitness instructor from Belfast, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 tells her story to help raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of the disease.

Karen is married to Mark, a graphic designer, and they have two daughters, Laura (22) and Kathryn (18).  She says:

“I love to keep busy and think nothing of working 12 hour days but after a stressful few months, a few weeks before my diagnosis, I was forced to close my gym because of the recession, so it’s been a tough time.

Karen and Mark Case

Karen and Mark Case

“I’d arranged to meet a friend the same day I was due to attended a clinic for tests on my left breast – I was a bit concerned as I thought it felt lumpy. I’d already missed one appointment – I had my head in the sand a bit. I remember saying to my friend that perhaps I’d postpone it again, but she told me I had to stop faffing around and deal with it.

“Three hours later, after a mammogram, ultrasound scan and biopsy, I was met by a consultant and a breast cancer nurse. They told me I was going to need a mastectomy. From then on life became very surreal.

“I’d always been afraid I was at more risk of developing breast cancer as my mother had had it, and was successfully treated, when she was 38 and again at 43.

Being positive

“She said the breast wasn’t such a bad place to get cancer because it could be removed. I was determined to be as positive as she had been.

“I wouldn’t let Mark come with me to the clinic but I called him as soon as I left. He was fantastic. His first words were ‘It’s a good job I’m a leg man!’ My daughters, Laura and Kathryn, have coped brilliantly too.

“The surgery involved removing my breast and reconstruction followed by chemotherapy. I lost my shoulder-length hair and put on about two-stones in weight because of the steroids I was on. There were days when I felt like a freak.

Walking tall

“When I went to hospital for treatment I always put on my make-up and wore my high heels – being able to walk tall made me feel good and kept the nurses amused!

“In January 2013, I had radiotherapy and then 12 months of herceptin treatment. I’ve made up my mind to have a second mastectomy to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back again.

Here to help

“No woman would ever want to be diagnosed with breast cancer but when you think about what really matters, the answer is relationships. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by those I love.

“Although family and friends are so supportive, you might worry about over-relying on them, or perhaps you are dealing with your illness on your own. If you have cancer, Cancer Focus NI is there for you too – there’s a warm welcome and a listening ear waiting to hear from you. There’s a free helpline on 0800 783 3339 where you can speak confidentially to a specialist nurse. Please use it if you need to talk.”

Signs and symptoms

The first symptom of breast cancer is usually a lump or an area of thickened tissue in the breast. Most lumps (90%) aren’t cancerous but it’s always best to have them checked.

See your GP if you notice:

  • a lump or area of thickened tissue in either breast
  • a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
  • discharge from either of your nipples (which may be streaked with blood)
  • a lump or swelling in either of your armpits
  • dimpling on the skin of your breasts
  • a rash on or around your nipple
  • a change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken
  • pain in either of your breasts or armpits not related to your period
  • If you are worried about cancer call the free Cancer Focus NI helpline on 0800 783 3339 or email care@cancerfocusni.org. For details about support services visit www.cancerfocusni.org

Leave a reply