I recently invited others to share who have their own breast cancer stories to tell or individuals who have accompanied a friend or family member on the breast cancer journey. Mary McCahill, from Ireland, emailed me with her story and sent several of her photos for me to include with her story. I became acquainted with Mary through a photography hosting site where we both have shared our photography as members of the “daily community.” Mary is one of my favorite photographers in the community, and I am so happy she has consented to share a few photos with you as well.
Here is Mary’s story —
Here in Ireland, every woman, when she turns 50, gets a free mammogram every 2 years. The week before Christmas week in 2011 I had mine (second time as I was 52). On the Friday of New Year’s weekend I received a letter telling me to go to BreastCheck in Cork City, first thing on Tuesday 3rd January 2012 (first working day). I knew this could not be good news.I drove the almost 2 hours there. I had to bring my husband as I am his full-time care-giver given his health issues from Oct 2011. I was taken upstairs, and Phill had to remain downstairs with all the other men.
Each woman was given another mammogram and then an ultrasound, but I was not called. Eventually they were all finished, and each one had been given the all clear. I had a mammogram and then an ultrasound. The doctor doing the ultrasound said she would be right back. She returned with a nurse. My heart sank. A biopsy was performed, and I was told it was cancer. My husband was brought up to be with me while I waited to see the consultant.
The consultant did a physical exam, and he explained that until the results of the biopsy came back he couldn’t say what stage, but I definitely had cancer. He explained that I couldn’t feel the lumps because they were growing inwards. So we had to return the following Monday. Stage 3 Breast cancer in my right breast and lymph nodes. An MRI was arranged plus more ultrasound. Back we came on that Wednesday and then again the following Monday for the results. The good news was that it was confined to the right breast and lymph nodes. The bad news was that the two lumps in my breast had grown even in that short time. They wanted to begin chemotherapy immediately.
I said that unless I was going to die in the next week without chemotherapy I wanted a week so I could travel home and tell my mother and family. They gave me a week. Chemotherapy was given in the hospital where we live. I got AC chemotherapy every 2 weeks over 4 months! It was horrendous. I didn’t mind losing my hair, but the fatigue was very debilitating as was the pain 3 days after each treatment. This lasted until the end of May.
On June 11 I had a mastectomy, all my lymph nodes removed and a reconstruction. 12 hours in theatre. 9 days in hospital. Got home with 3 drains still in. Had to go back each Monday 4 more times to Cork until the drains came out. I couldn’t drive so my wonderful daughter, Aisling, drove us. Aisling’s very generous employers paid her for every one of those 4 Mondays.
The results from the full examination of the breast and lymph nodes was that I had had 3 primary lumps in the breast and all 30 lymph nodes had cancer. The tumors had not shrunk during chemotherapy! It was a hormone positive cancer even though I had had a total hysterectomy 12 years earlier. So then it was on to radiotherapy and Tamoxifen. The radiotherapy was 5 days a week from Mid July to mid Sept in another hospital where I live. So I am under the care of 3 hospitals!
I am checked every 3 months and will be all of this year too. It is only now that I can get my heard around what happened and is happening.
and so it is . . .