Laura Parkinson, a photographer from Lisburn, was just 35 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her family and friends pulled her through and Friends of the Cancer Centre also played a big part in her experience. This is Laura’s story.
“The 15th August 2016 is a date I will never forget. It was the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 35 years old. In that initial moment when the word ‘cancer’ came out of the consultant’s mouth, I honestly felt a rush go through my body that I have never felt before. I knew from that moment on my life was never going to be the same.
“My family and friends were, as you can imagine, gutted when I broke the news. However, after the initial shock, time definitely helped us all accept it. You could have easily hid in a corner and felt sorry for yourself, but with the support of my husband, Simon, family and friends I knew that was never going to happen. Also Dan, our 6 year old, didn’t need his family crumbling around him so we went into process mode and did what we had to do to get through it.”
First steps and more tests
“I had the lump removed a month after I was diagnosed but because of my specific type of breast cancer and that my mum, Kathleen also had breast cancer 10 years ago, I was tested to see if my cancer was caused by a faulty gene. The results showed that I was a carrier of the BRCA 1 gene and while it wasn’t the news I wanted to hear, I knew it was better to know so I could make an informed decision about the future. My mum and sister, Jill were tested and it turned out that Jill also carries the gene. Jill is the most positive person I know, so to go through this with her makes it all a little easier. We both decided to get a double mastectomy and I had mine last year.”
Familiar places and friendly faces
“Coming to the Cancer Centre as a patient is scary, but it was made a little easier as we already knew loads of the nurses from when my dad had cancer and attended the Bridgewater Suite for 16 years. Sadly, dad passed away in 2014, but having those familiar and friendly faces helped make a strange environment a little less daunting.
“It’s also less daunting thanks to the incredible work of Friends of the Cancer Centre. While it’s a busy clinical environment, the charity does so much to try to make the Cancer Centre really welcoming which really helps when you come through the doors for the first time as a patient. The day of my first chemotherapy session I actually posted a photo on my Instagram raving about the fact you get tea and biscuits on tap in the Bridgewater Suite, which is thanks to Friends of the Cancer Centre. You do a lot of waiting around when you are in for treatment and tests so a cup of tea means so much. I’ve also availed of the complementary therapy funded by Friends of the Cancer Centre at the Support and Information Centre which was a lovely treat in the midst of treatment and appointments and it really helped alleviate some of the stress and anxiety that you feel. The charity even provides little tubs of moisturiser after your treatment which I was able to use at home which was fantastic. The fact that the charity’s office is also based in the Cancer Centre is amazing, as you feel there is always support there should you need anything.”
Life is still good
“You learn to adjust to living with cancer and you adapt your lifestyle accordingly. Your main focus is to get better, ride the wave and to fight like you have never fought before. Throughout the entire journey there were of course lots of tears, however there are way more smiles! In a bad situation, that I came to call ‘The Melt’, things clicked into place which made everything that little bit easier. When I say things, it really came down to people and the support network I had surrounding me. My family, friends, work colleagues and all those cheerleaders throughout the country carried me through. Friends of the Cancer Centre was a really important part of that support network too and I’m so thankful that the charity is there for me and so many others like me. Today, I’m back doing the job I love and enjoying life with the people I love. It’s nearly 2 years since those life-changing words came out of my consultants mouth and while so much has changed, life is still really good.”
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