Real Life Stories of Breast Cancer Patients
Stories of breast cancer patients and their journeys from symptoms, through to diagnosis, surgery and beyond are becoming all too familiar as more women are diagnosed, but how they cope is as individual as they are. No two journeys are the same but there is a lot of common ground, and as such, a lot that can be learned when breast cancer patients share their stories with others, whether that’s in person, in the media or simply with a friend.
In gathering together stories of breast cancer patients we found Della – a confident, engaging woman full of joie de vivre who was more than willing to share her story. She recalls the day she was told she had breast cancer – and how she lost that joy for life during treatment but found that through helping others she got it back.
The day Della was told she had breast cancer, in 2010, she didn’t know how to tell her friends and family. “I couldn’t talk about my treatment – I said it was ‘just a lump’,” she says. Like some other breast cancer patient stories you may have heard before, her diagnosis came as a complete surprise. Della led a busy and fulfilling life, with a career and two daughters with no history of breast cancer in her family that she was aware of.
Della opted for a mastectomy, although she didn’t know anything about the option to wear prostheses at that point: “I had never seen a prosthesis before, and I didn’t know what a mastectomy bra was either.” Nor did she know where to turn when she needed to talk about how she felt.
“I was advised by my healthcare team to join a support group,” she says, “but I didn’t know what they were.” Looking back now, Della would urge others to share their breast cancer stories with patients to simply help someone else on their journey. “I wanted to talk to people like me who were going through cancer. I needed them to tell me, ‘This is what I did, this is what to expect.’ I would have really appreciated that – to know what was coming next.”
Being Discharged from the Hospital
After being discharged from the hospital, so many breast cancer patients experience loss and distress. Della found that after her surgery and while she was waiting for her chemotherapy to begin, she experienced the full impact of what had happened to her. “I was hit with the reality that I had cancer, and I just couldn’t cope. I needed help.”
How Hearing Others’ Stories Can Help
Della found a local support group. “I was offered counseling, massage, reflexology – everything that was new to me and that I really wanted to experience. It was like pampering after all that cancer had thrown at me.
“I always looked forward to going there and I definitely recommend to any woman diagnosed with breast cancer that she joins a support group. It isn’t all about having a cup of tea. There’s more to it, and that saw me through.”
Hearing other cancer patients’ stories, Della wanted to become a ‘voice for the voiceless’ once she got better. “Especially in Nigeria, where I come from, we don’t talk about cancer. But I wanted to be part of the solution – to say to people that there is life after cancer, so I got involved with lots of volunteer work.”
Seeing herself as an advocate and encouraging others to reach out for the help they need, Della made an effort to talk to people and help them know what to expect. “A lot of the things I got out of my support group in my darkest days, I felt I wanted to take back into the community. Not only was I helping them, but I was also helping myself,” she explains.
Sharing stories helped Della and she managed to get back on track. Della also shares, “I decided to get fit, so I joined a gym once I became strong enough. I was determined to eat well and reduce the stress in my life too.” Before long she felt full of energy again: “Sometimes when something bad happens, something good can come of it. That’s how I saw it.” Della benefited directly from all of these experiences, and she’s grateful for the positive effect it had on her – it even aided her continued recovery.
A Second Chance
Her advice to other women facing a breast cancer diagnosis is clear: “You are not alone – reach out, talk to people, educate them. I know people say don’t talk about yourself, but I talked about myself and I tried to get an audience. I want people to listen. That was how I became strong – and I’m not looking back. There is life after cancer. Cancer was just a chapter; there are more chapters in my life.”
The Day I Was Told is here for you. It is full of personal stories from breast cancer patients, to support women through every step of their breast cancer journeys, from initial diagnosis, through treatment, to recovery and beyond.