In the past eight years, 45-year-old Liz Gooderham has had to look breast cancer in the face. Twice. Having put her ‘life jigsaw’ back together for a second time, she wanted to share her story – and strut her stuff too.
I was first diagnosed in 2007, aged just 37 years old. I work as a nurse and knew breast cancer did happen to women under 50 but the chances are considerably smaller.
I remember when I found the lump, I asked a friend, also a nurse, to look at it for me and she immediately said I should get it checked. I have to admit I didn’t follow her advice and it was a few weeks later when I noticed swollen glands under my arms that I thought I should see someone.
I went to the breast clinic at the hospital where I worked and was seen quickly. The nurse said more often than not lumps turn out to be just a cyst and I should not be too concerned, so I tried not to worry.
Sadly my lump was not a cyst: I was diagnosed with breast cancer and was immediately scheduled to have a mastectomy followed by six rounds of chemotherapy, then radiotherapy.
You’d think working as a nurse would make me more relaxed as I had more of an understanding, but it really didn’t help. In my job you see the worst-case scenarios, I knew what could go wrong. Add to that the fact I have lost other family members to cancer and well, as you can imagine, I was definitely scared.
But it all went smoothly; I finished the chemotherapy, moved onto radiotherapy and saw the end in sight. I had survived breast cancer and went back to living my life. I was a mum to two young children and I loved spending time with them; I also got the job of my dreams. My life was sorted. But things never work out as you imagine.
In 2009 everything changed. My mum went for a routine mammogram and they found something irregular. She was called back for more tests and before long she was told she had breast cancer.
I was stunned. It was heartbreaking to think Mum would have to go through everything I had done. But life had not quite finished crashing around me. Just two weeks later I discovered a lump and before long I was being told I had breast cancer again.
“Someone had messed up my life jigsaw; they had pulled it apart and scattered the pieces far and wide. It took a lot longer to get it all back together, but I finally feel like it’s all in place.”
This did not seem fair. But before long I took on a practical approach: I had beaten it once, I could do it again and this time me and Mum could do it together.
We were in the same hospital and I remember having my operation just a day before hers. My cancer was a lot more aggressive and so needed to be treated faster.
Although it was a hard time for the family, we try to remember it with a smile and now I say, “Well it certainly made visiting time a lot easier for everyone as me and Mum were in a bed next to each other.”
It was during this time Mum and I decided to get tested for the inherited faulty BRCA gene. We both tested positive for the BRCA1 fault and since then I have had my ovaries removed to reduce my risk of getting ovarian cancer. There’s no way I want to hear the words “you have cancer” again.
After the second diagnosis I found it a lot harder to get on with life. I like to describe it as someone had messed up my life jigsaw; they had pulled it apart and scattered the pieces far and wide. It took a lot longer to get it all back together, but I finally feel like it’s all in place.
Breast Cancer Care helped me do that: not only were they there during the cancer, when I turned to the website for information, but I also attended an amazing Younger Women Together weekend where I met other women who were going through the same problems as me. It made me feel less alone.
Now Breast Cancer Care has helped me in a different way. As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month I was one of 32 models who yesterday took part in The Show in London. It helped me look and feel gorgeous and continue to move past my breast cancer diagnosis – both of them!3012 Views