Lisa Hutchings who lives off the Purdysburn road in Newtownbreda shares her story of breast cancer in the hope of encouraging other women aged 40-49 and 70 plus to avail of Action Cancer’s free breast screening service. Lisa who works in the Belfast Trust as a Business Manager in the Medical Physics Service is married to Drew and has two children, Tom (14) and Jack (9), and three step children Rebecca (28), Matthew (24) and John (22).
Lisa tells her story:
“It was November 2012 and I had just celebrated my 47th birthday when a reminder to go for my two yearly Action Cancer mammogram came up. Although I had no family history of breast cancer three of my very close circle of friends had all experienced it and had undergone surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. My greatest friend has breast cancer metastasises in her lungs but is thankfully in remission at present.
I made an appointment and went along to Action Cancer House in South Belfast with no concerns at all as I regularly checked my breasts. I was very surprised and frightened to get a letter a week later referring me to the Breast Clinic at Belfast City Hospital for further investigation of a suspect area that had shown up on the mammogram.”
Lisa then attended the Breast Clinic where she had further x-rays and a biopsy was taken from the area of concern. She was then told that there was a 10cm line of tiny calcified cells in one of her ducts that was suspected Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) and, on primary analysis of the cells under a microscope, that this was most likely the case. The doctor then explained that because of the area the cancer cells covered that Lisa should try to get her head around the idea that she would need a full mastectomy of the right breast and that treatment would be discussed at a further appointment.
“I went home in total shock. I was petrified and imagining the worst and trying to imagine life for my husband Drew, two young boys Tom and Jack and my three stepchildren without me around. I met the breast surgeon a week later and was told that it was DCIS and would require a mastectomy. I was told that I was very lucky to have been to Action Cancer and found this at age 47 and that if I had waited for screening at the regular age of 50 that my cancer may have become an invasive tumour that would probably have required chemotherapy and radiotherapy.”
Lisa then underwent a lengthy operation to remove her right breast and had an immediate reconstruction using the muscle and tissue from her back. Lisa also had a sentinel node biopsy to see if cancer had spread away from her breast. “I had more than my fair share of complications and a lengthy stay in hospital,” continues Lisa, “where, amongst other things, I entertained 54 live leeches which were used to save the skin that was grafted from my back.”
“I am extremely grateful to my exceptionally talented surgeon Miss Samantha Sloan who believed in me and was committed to giving me the new breast I wanted, made from my own tissue. Owing to the early intervention following the Action Cancer screening, I received the good news that the cancerous cells had not spread beyond the duct.”
“Several other ladies have attended Action Cancer for screening as a result of my experiences. One of these ladies has been found to have breast cancer since her screening and has undergone surgery herself. I would urge anyone aged 40-49 or over 70 to book a breast screening appointment at Action Cancer. I am so glad that I did. The story I tell could have been so different otherwise.”
Action Cancer offers a range of support services to any adult or child affected by cancer (person diagnosed and family/friends/carers from diagnosis stage, during or after treatment. Services are also available to anyone who has been bereaved through cancer or is currently undergoing genetic cancer testing.
Lisa describes how her cancer diagnosis affected her emotionally and how she availed of the charity’s support services; “My diagnosis came as such a shock and I was petrified trying to imagine life for my husband Drew, two young boys Tom and Jack and my three stepchildren without me around. Thankfully I am now cancer free following a mastectomy but it has been an emotional rollercoaster. Action Cancer’s complementary therapies, reflexology, aromatherapy and massage have helped me to focus on my own wellbeing and cope with what I’ve been through. Over the last few years I have had multiple surgeries to fix problem areas and for breast reconstruction. It’s been a long road but finally I’m starting to feel like my old self again.”
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