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Sarah’s journey follows her from diagnosis, through treatment in a way only she can. It comes straight from the heart, containing valuable and little-known insights, tackling treatment and symptom taboo with a sprinkling of self-deprecating humour. Sarah titles her journey ‘My boobs, a marker pen and a wonderful lady named Orla.’

#1 Rowing on through diagnosis

Sarah's journeySo, it’s September 2017 and I’m in Dublin at a rowing championship, three weeks after being diagnosed with Breast cancer. I didn’t decide until two days before that I would compete as I was understandably having a bit of a crisis.

I had grown a small tumour and I had not found it. It had been detected at the routine screening. Worst case scenario it was only twelve months old as it was not detected at the previous routine checks, well that has to be good news. I considered naming it, but nothing that can be repeated here.

Orla, my breast care nurse at Charing Cross Hospital, called me seconds before I entered a Dublin hostelry on a pre-race day pub crawl and just seeing the hospital number come up on the phone was enough to raise my heart rate to blockbuster levels.

Orla was great, she got me laughing and explained everything in terms I could understand about my imminent surgery. Then I had a few drinks, followed by a few more. I let my hair down for the first time since D-Day (Diagnosis Day). I achieved a little bit of escapism for a few hours. And then a headache.

I raced, won, celebrated and drank some more. On departing the race venue, I told all my fellow competitors to watch this space: I would be back for next year’s competition. The kind words and hugs on departure were overwhelming, I do hate it when people make me cry.

On meeting with the consultant (what a legend!) and Orla, the next few weeks were explained to me. The surgeon quickly got a handle on me and was direct and straightforward with no fluffiness, this is me and I respond best to this direct approach.

Orla sat back and watched me, listened to my replies. On finishing, Orla and I went into the next room where she asked if I understood the process and she got me some of the relevant booklets that covered every aspect of surgery, recovery, support and so forth. She was fab and I had a large bag of information. Everything was (sort of) ok until she asked how I really was. Then everything was not ok, that was it, the flood gates opened, and I cried long and hard with her. She was very comforting and didn’t once comment on the mascara that had made it’s way around my face. She was with me at nearly all my appointments and called me almost every Friday to touch base. She always had me laughing and she had a calm and reassuring demeanour at all times.

More to follow…

sarah's story