My Life After Breast Cancer

on Tuesday, 27 October 2015. Tags andreapartridge, breastcancerawarenessmonth, breastcancercancerblog, CancerCare, cancersurvivor, Kendal, Lancaster

Andrea Partridge - CancerCare's Volunteer & Engagement Officer and previous client - chats to us about her life 3 years after being diagnosed and treated for stage 3 breast cancer.

andrea and daughter 2

Andrea with daughter Elena in 2012

 

After facing three years of gruelling cancer treatment and reconstructive surgery, 48 year old Andrea Partridge has now beaten the disease and been given the all clear by doctors.

However, Andrea’s journey is far from over as she prepares to enter a new chapter as a cancer survivor. And although life will never be the same again, with support from her family and CancerCare, Andrea remains upbeat about her future.

“It all started when I noticed changes in my nipple. It looked inverted. I showed it to my neighbour and she didn’t think it was anything to worry about. I waited another 12 weeks before deciding to see my G.P. He then referred me for urgent tests and it turned out to be the worse news imaginable.”

Every year nearly 55,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK - the equivalent of one person every 10 minutes - and is the second most common cause of death from cancer in women.

However, the good news is that survival rates continue to improve, doubling in the last 40 years in the UK with 78% of women surviving breast cancer for 10 or more years in England and Wales.

Whilst this is obviously positive news, cancer patients & their family members still face a long and difficult journey back to recovery.

Following her serious ‘stage 3’ cancer diagnosis, Andrea immediately began a course of treatment that included chemotherapy, radiotherapy, a mastectomy on her left side and surgery to remove her lymph nodes. More recently, Andrea went under the knife again for 10 hours of reconstructive surgery.

“It’s been a very tough three years but now I am living my life as cured. I’m just waiting on my final op to ‘fine tune’ my new nipple”, she jokes.

“Despite everything I’ve been through this is actually the hardest time of all for me. You get so used to attending hospital appointments and being looked after so when all your treatment is finally over you feel really cut off. The scariest thing for me now is what if the cancer comes back? I’m a ticking time bomb basically.

“I’ve been told that I have a 50/50 chance it coming back. In a way, if it did, I’d say thank god for that because waiting for it to happen is worse! The fear of reoccurrence is very difficult to deal with.”

andrea2015

Andrea today

However, Andrea is finding new ways forward and remains positive about her future, taking strength from her job as Volunteer & Engagement Coordinator here at CancerCare.

“I first came to CancerCare as a client but now I get to come here and work every day! I love it. I meet new people all the time, people that have been through the same experiences as me. Being able to talk and share my feelings and emotions with others helps me so much. It makes me realise I’m not ‘cracking up’! It keeps the fear at a level that I can control.”

Throughout her experiences, Andrea also kept a journal called ‘Ouch’ to remember some of the things that happened to her. “I used to write down some of the things I could never say to my own family. I felt so guilty seeing pain in their faces. They couldn’t do anything to help me. Now, I know my family are in a much better place. They know I have CancerCare to support me - they’ve been there for me throughout everything.”

“You can refer yourself back to CancerCare for help at any time and their services are also available to other family members too, not just the person with cancer. At the moment I’m in the process of setting up a new Breast Cancer support group for local women who are facing similar issues I did.”

“It’s so difficult to go back to who you were before. Cancer changes everything: your work life, your relationships, your personality, how you see others and how you see the world.  Now I appreciate and value life in ways I never did before. It’s the small things, like spending time with my family and hearing them laugh.”

“Helping others is so important to me now. It’s such a good feeling knowing you are making a difference, no matter how small. If I can turn my experience into something positive then it gives me a new purpose. And that makes me really happy.”

Breast Cancer Awareness Month logo

Find out more information about Breast Cancer Support Services at CancerCare

Read Andrea's Blog, "Ouch!! Thanks Breast Cancer"

Find out more about Volunteering at CancerCare