I was diagnosed at 22 years of age. Before I knew it I was getting full-body scans, blood tests, MRI, CT scans, seeing all different types of doctors. Each day was filled with doctor’s appointments and scans. A week after receiving my diagnosis I started my IVF treatment to collect eggs to freeze where is was able to collect two eggs. I then got put under to have a lumpectomy and lymph node biopsy where they took 8 lymph nodes which all came back negative to cancer. That was a positive!
I then started Zoledex needles, followed by chemotherapy treatment where I had four rounds over three months. My white cell count always dropped after each chemotherapy from being so sick, so I was also put on Neulasta injections. The bone aches after these needles almost put me off taking them!
21 days after I had finished my treatment I was booked in for a double mastectomy and immediate reconstruction surgery. I strolled on into the surgery with no clue what I was in for. Even the surgeon was like it’s ok to be scared or upset but a big smile and a thumbs up I was like “Nah, she’ll be right, piece of cake!” I woke up surgery with four drainage tubes and a chest so tight it hurt to breathe. I couldn’t get up out of bed, dress myself, cough or anything. So, lying in bed I built up fluid in my lungs which caused a small infection. Eventually, things got easier and after eight nights in hospital, I was able to go home with two drainage tubes.
I had to go back to the hospital every few days to check the wounds. That’s when the doctors became worried. As every time I went back the scars became that little bit darker and the dark bruise looked like it was spreading further. It was always such an anxious feeling as they pulled the bandage off each time. It was two weeks after my double mastectomy just as I started feeling that little bit better that they went to pull off the bandage and saw the skin had all died from not getting enough blood flow and oxygen. The wounds had opened, and you could see the implant! Before I knew it, I was back in for emergency surgery to remove the implants to put in an expander.
Since then, I've had three more reconstruction surgeries with many little setbacks on the way with seroma build ups and infections. Over the past just under two years, I have been put under nine times for different breast and fertility surgeries. One of the hardest parts of my journey was probably the change in my image, being a young 22 years old you want to keep up with all the beautiful people out there. Throughout one of my rounds where I got terribly sick, it was because I didn’t take my steroid tablets because I was too scared it would make me put on weight. I soon learnt to never do that again! Losing half my lashes, my eyebrows, all the hair on my head besides that little bit of fuzz, and my boobs! I wasn’t able to exercise or eat like I usually did because of being too sick or recovering from surgery. Everything was changing, and so was my self-esteem. Still, to this day it can be a struggle. But luckily there are foundations like this out there to help young people like myself going through cancer.
By Stephanie Murphy