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What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger..... When someone loses a child it is said to be one of the worst experiences someone can face. For many people it can break them, others it can make them stronger. Margaret Stafford will easily admit that she has been made stronger from the lose of her son. Margaret’s son, Young Martin, named after his father, fought ‘Dermatomyosits’ for six years before sadly dying at the young age of 18. Dermatomyosits is a rare skin and muscle disease. “We knew something was wrong very early on, he was always tired. His muscles would hurt, his back would hurt, and he’d get tired writing in school.” Martin was misdiagnosed with eczema but when antibiotics didn’t work they were sent to a dermatologist where they quickly diagnosed him correctly. “I was a mess before we even knew anything. The doctor brought us into a room to wait while he talked to someone else. He lived for 6 years with the disease. He was almost 19 when he died. It feels like only yesterday, not 20 years ago.” Margaret smiles as she thinks of the memories she shared with her son, mentioning that he always say she could write a book one day, about their life. “And I will write a book!” She says proudly. Margaret and her husband separated in the early 2000’s, she stayed in Ireland, the home to their remaining three children while Martin moved to Portugal. In 2005 Margaret’s sister Kathleen was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. She went through radiation and chemo therapy. In April 2007 Margaret’s estranged husband died in Portugal. The following July her sister died after a lengthy battle. “It was a tough year. But you have to get up, continue with life.” At the end of October 2011 Margaret went for a mammogram, like any other woman her age. When her results came back she was asked to come in and speak to the doctor. She admitted she was calm until she got to the waiting room. “We went into a full room and then the nurses were just skipping us. People were leaving and we weren’t moving. I’ve had enough experience in hospitals to know that if they keep you to last its not good news.”

It was a tough year. But you have to get up, continue with life.”

Symptoms of breast cancer to look out for....

ductal carcinoma cells

She was diagnosed with ductile carcinoma, a form of breast cancer. “I had my breast ducts removed, which I didn’t care about I’m well past having babies. And then I had radiation therapy. I was lucky. They were always positive, so I felt at ease. The only side effects from the radiation was a bit of redness and I was very tired.” 6 weeks after the operation Margaret’s test results came back clear, along with her one year results and now even two years on she is still in the all clear and positive more than ever. “Everything happens for a reason. I stayed so strong because I’ve been through so much, I’m strong today because of young Martin.”

Itchy, sore, or reddened breasts The skin around the breast may feel rashy or hot to touch. This is a sign of inflammatory breast cancer, a rare form of cancer that is not as well known as common breast tumors. The breast may become swollen, irritated or sore. The breast may change colour, and look bruised. . Upper back pain The spin routinely checks for the presence of tumors, which is why back pain can happen before any other sign of breast cancer. The back pain is usually mistake for sore muscles, pulled tendon or osteoarthritis of the spine. The pain usually occurs in the upper back between the shoulder blades. . Nipple changes As breast tumors usually form underneath the nipple, this leads to changes in the appearance and feel of the nipple. The nipple may stick up less than it used to, or look flattened. It also may be sensitive to touch, or inflamed. If you are not breast feeding and there is a discharge of blood, milk, or water, you should consult to your GP. A change in the shape or size of one breast Does your breast look different than usual? A change in breast shape may be symptom, know your breast shape! Pain and swelling of the arm pit. Lymph nodes may feel swollen or tender before a tumour is large enough to be felt in the breast. If there is pain in the arm pit area, check for a hard lump, it will be attached to surrounding tissues so will not move when touched. The tissue may feel thick in comparison to the other arm pit.

Margaret and her youngest daughter celebrating her 60th birthday.

Margaret celebrating her 60th birthday. A year cancer free.


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