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FAYE'S STORY - a Secondary Diagnosis

'It's not all about ringing bells and being cancer free.'

Having done a Biology degree, I understand the amazing complexity of the human body. With the billions of cells and processes going on, it is surprising that things don’t go wrong more often.

Unfortunately, things went drastically wrong in my body. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 whilst pregnant. After two years of treatment, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and several surgeries, I thought I was ‘cured’.

However, a month later I started having very painful headaches at the back of my head. I went to my GP who initially dismissed them but I knew something wasn’t right. A few days later I attended an out of hours GP, which was next to an A&E, where I had CT scan and I was diagnosed with brain metastasis in 2018.

So I needed more treatment. I’ve had whole brain radiotherapy and a few weeks later I started Kadcyla®. I lost my hair which was upsetting and I’ve lost some cognitive function, my short-term memory is not so good these days.

For a while I had no evidence of advanced disease (NEAD) but in December 2019 a scan revealed a couple of small lesions in my cerebellum. This meant targeted CyberKnife radiotherapy which blasted them. In March 2021 I moved onto a new treatment regime which consists of three types of medication and has different side effects. Treatment is a slog and extremely tiring, however the treatment is working so it is worth it. Long may it continue to work.

The rollercoaster never ends!

I have a history of breast cancer in my family. My mum died aged 45 from breast cancer, her mum had it at the same time but lived until she was 88. I have two young daughters and my aim is to stick around for as long as possible and make lots of memories with them. My husband and I are honest with them about my cancer, but we term it in a way in which they will understand. They know I have cancer and I have special medicine to treat it.

I am medically retired from work and am not allowed to drive so life is very different now. Day-to-day I do get exhausted, my husband has been working from home which is a great help. Mornings can be difficult, I struggle to get up and get going so my husband often takes the girls to school, which is close to home. Then I pick them up and do their reading and homework while he finishes his work.

People don’t realise the daily grind. Having cancer has taken over my life.

I just think to myself keep going, keep going, I want to be here as long as possible. With secondaries, the disease is always there.

I think it’s so important to raise awareness of secondary cancer. It’s not all about ringing bells and being cancer free.

It is incurable but it is treatable which is why research into different secondary treatments is so very important.

I am scared. I do not want to die. I want to see my daughters grow up and grow old with my husband. But I have hope. Medical research has kept me alive this far and I hope it continues to do so for many more years. I’m not done yet!

Faye x



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