With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we wanted to highlight once again the importance of checking your boobs regularly. We're so passionate about it at About Time Planners that we included a monthly reminder within the Planner and make a donation to CoppaFeel! for every Planner bought. We also have limited edition cover with boobs across the front!
Let us introduce Tracie (@ithinkijustgotlost), she's been a true champion of ours for a couple of years now, a fully blown stationery geek, we knew we were in great company! Tracie, mum of four, lives with breast cancer and as her Instagram bio confirms has a total kick ass attitude towards it all. She's written us an honest, witty and heart felt blog post which we hope helps spread the message of check your boobs, check your boobs, check your boobs...
Every month when I turn the page in my About Time Planner, my heart beats just a little bit faster when it sees the “check your boobs” reminder. You see, for me this helpful little voice reminding me to check comes a little bit too late.
4 years ago, at the age of 34, yes just 34, I was diagnosed with Breast cancer. I remember it as clear as if it was just a few hours ago. It was a few weeks before Christmas and as a mum of 4 children age 10, 8, 4 and 18 months, I was manically busy. I remember feeling a pain at the top of my chest – not the worst pain I've ever felt but it was irritating and constant. I had a quick check but I remembered growing up that all the awareness I had seen reminded me to “look for a lump” and all the chatter on fb said that cancer was something that happened to older people, and wasn’t painful so was probably nothing – and Millie was only 18 months so was probably hormonal, so would be fine right? So, I ignored it...
A few weeks later Christmas had come and gone, and the pain returned. I say returned but the more I think about it the more I think it’s like period pain or tooth ache – when you are busy you don’t notice it but then in those quiet moments oops there it is... Regardless, it came back and I remember pushing on it and moaning to my husband “ that blimmin’ pain is back” and as I slid my hand across my chest and under my arm there was a tiny little lump that hadn’t been there 2 or 3 weeks ago.
I did what every sensible person would do which was cry, and panic, and ring my best friend for help – she is a nurse, I was clearly thinking some sort of sense – I asked her to come and look at my boobs, a request she claims isn’t the strangest thing I've ever asked of her. She came, made some concerning noises and sent me to my GP – who made similar noises of concern and sent me to the local hospital.
I remember going in and having a mammogram – not a mean feat as a 44HH!! I remember the nurse looking at me, then back at her machine, then back at me and muttering something about needing the bigger plates! I then continued through the “one stop shop” to ultrasound, and finally a biopsy on the small, but ever-growing lump under my arm. I then sat in the horrendously pink waiting room with people coming and going until a nurse came in to reassure me, they hadn’t forgotten me, they were just leaving me till last. Eventually the doctor returned with the words “I’d like you to meet Carol, she is going to be your Macmillan nurse”. She went on to tell me I had Invasive Ductal Carcinoma – Breast cancer! And the lump under my arm was where it had already started to travel through my lymph nodes. I went on to have 6 cycles of chemotherapy, losing my hair and having a 12-inch Hickman line put into my chest, a bilateral (meaning both sides) mastectomy, having both breasts completely removed and 14 daily sessions of intense radiotherapy. I also have to have daily and monthly treatment to keep me in menopause as my type of cancer uses Oestrogen to grow.
It was during my treatment I found CoppaFeel! and their mission to Encourage, Educate and Empower everyone to get into the healthy habit of checking their bodies so that anything new and unusual for them can be checked asap. I considered myself a pretty intelligent woman and I had absolutely no idea that I was at risk from breast cancer. As far as I was concerned it was a disease that affected women in their 60’s – a grandmother’s disease. What I didn’t realise is actually anybody of any gender and age can get breast cancer. In fact, 1 in 7 women and 400 men are diagnosed each year in the UK alone! One thing we do know about this disease is that in most cases, the earlier a cancer is diagnosed then the more successful the treatments are, and often the least invasive treatments are too.
As a CoppaFeel! Boobette I am absolutely blessed to be able to travel all over to schools, colleges, universities, community groups and businesses to talk about my story and how important it is to get into the habit of checking your own body and knowing what your normal is. Unfortunately like many things COVID has impacted that but the Boobettes are still talking to as many people as possible virtually via webinars, check out coppafeel.org to book yourself on one.
We want to help reach as many people as possible to know that it really doesn’t matter how you check, as long as you check regularly, in a way that is comfortable for you so that you make it a habit. That’s why the signs and symptoms and reminders in the About Time Planners are such a great idea. That way the information is always there for you and you can be reminded every single month. The more regularly you check, the quicker it will become a habit – one that will make a difference not just today but for the rest of your life. By knowing your normal, by trusting your touch and regularly checking you can identify anything new and unusual for you as soon as possible and get it checked out. As I said before we know that in most cases the most success comes from early diagnosis. It would be amazing if just reading my story or listening to a Boobette speak would mean you didn’t get cancer – it would be an amazing super power but it’s not going to happen so all we can do is encourage you to start self-checking today and start a habit that really can save your life.
If you want to read more about my treatment journey, I blogged during my active treatment at thegirlwiththeboobs.wordpress.com starting from my diagnosis in January.