November 17th 2009
Defeating doubt and beating breast cancer
Cathy Buckmaster talks to a woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer at only 35 about her experience of every woman’s worst fear Finding a lump is among many women’s worst fears. The thought that this illness can jeopardise your chances of having children, your femininity and even the right to your life is an exceptionally traumatic experience. Mary Taylor, a survivor of breast cancer, was diagnosed when she was only 35. Now 43, she has a three month old baby and volunteers with Breast Cancer Ireland. Taylor explains her experience of being diagnosed; “Before I was diagnosed, I actually did go for regular check ups and that was the one thing that fell through the cracks. I did have a check up and asked specifically about the lump that I felt but I was told the thing that I was worrying about was too small and too soft to be anything of concern.” “So, I took it that I didn’t have to worry about that. It was only about a year later when it had gotten harder so I went back to the doctor and I was again told it was nothing to worry about, it was too soft.” “But, because I was upset at the time and was worrying, they sent me to breast check and in Vincent’s and they knew straight away. I would suggest go with your instinct. If you really feel its worrying, get a second opinion or go to the breast clinic.” Although distinctly young when she was diagnosed, Taylor claims the more she learns, that it isn’t that unusual. “Well I was 35 but you know, because I’m a volunteer now, I’m finding a lot of young women are affected. They’re only in their thirties, or early forties that I would be calling. It’s not as unusual as I thought.” She goes on to explain about her reaction to her own diagnosis and the unusual information she discovered; “I was surprised when I found out, as were my peers, friends and colleagues who all thought it was very unusual but now I see it doesn’t appear to be that unusual.” “In fact I read a statistic that suggests that the east coast of Ireland has one of he highest rates of breast cancer in the world. I don’t know what it’s to do with but it’s something I’ve remembered because of the high rate. It could be Sellafield, but it can be anything from the geology of an area as well.” My doctor at the time recommended I read a book, by Professor Jane Plant; suggested not eating any dairy. She had breast cancer and it was five times that it came back on her so she stopped eating dairy completely and the lumps disappeared almost immediately.” Taylor’s immediate response to finding
out she had breast cancer was complete disbelief as well as a need to maintain some control. “I suppose utter shock and disbelief were the first response for starters. I couldn’t believe it could happen to me, so young and just anger really, frustration that I didn’t really know anything about it except how much it was going to change my life and there was no turning back.” “It wasn’t a choice of mine. It just happened and that was it. So just trying to deal with it and trying to get all the information you could so you could retain some control.” Not having a partner can be difficult but Taylor goes onto explain the difficulty of the experience of being diagnosed without someone to lean on. “I was single at the time. Certainly as a single person, even though your family are a great support, you feel very alone in it.” “I suppose your future seems like it is in the air; opportunities then seemed very limited. However after saying that, it was completely the opposite. But at the time that’s how I felt.” However despite the worry involved, Taylor claims never to have been overly pessimistic. “I never felt afraid for my life. Breast cancer is quite curable; it’s very treatable. I never felt it was a death sentence. That could be just my way of thinking, but I just didn’t feel that.” With the side affects of the treatment involved and the nature of the location of the cancer many women feel their femininity is compromised. “I very much felt my femininity was being taken from me. I was very frustrated by it. Everything down to what you wear is affected, especially your clothing, because that’s how you present yourself.” “You’d feel nothing fitted as you were walking around with prosthesis or not as the case may be. As my breast settled down, then you work with that, but with clothing, you feel different in it. You feel you just couldn’t wear certain clothing, especially in Summer. Also, now that I’m breast feeding, I can only breast feed from one because the lymph nodes are all gone so milk wouldn’t come down into that.” Taylor received several different kinds of treatment but as the cancer had begun to spread, she had to go through chemotherapy. “I started with a lumpectomy; that happened fairly quickly after the diagnosis. They also took out all the lymph nodes from that particular arm, my right arm.” “The theory was at the time, that they were likely to be infected. At that age, they recommend chemotherapy unless you really don’t have any lymph nodes infected so I got chemotherapy. So I had the chemo-
therapy for six months and after that I had radiotherapy which is general practice to blast any rogue cells.” Taylor found the treatment very difficult, because of the side affects and the many precautions you had to take. “The treatment has to be harder than the disease. So, after a while, you get very tired and youre always very conscious of infection you check your temperature every day to check on any infection because you wouldn’t necessarily know you had a temperature.” “If you your temperature doesn’t go down, you have to go in to hospital and they flood you with antibiotics to get rid of it. As you immune system gets lower, bugs that are naturally occurring in your body would never affect you when your system is not as compromised, but when it is, they do. So it isn’t something you have to catch, just might happen within yourself.” After being diagnosed with such a serious illness, Taylor lives her life differently to how she would have before hand. “I suppose I’m definitely more conscious of people who are struggling; I’d be more tolerant but now. I realise maybe they’re just having a bad day, maybe they’re not well.” “When I wasn’t well, I was often very frustrated and under the weather and that comes out in your reactions to people so now I’m more understanding of that. You just don’t know; there are a lot of people suffering from different things out there. You have no idea.” “One thing I found very frustrating and got very angry about was people staring. I wore a bandana a lot because wigs are just in the way. They’re great in one way but frustrating in another so found people looking and staring very tough and difficult to deal with.” “During my illness, I got on a real health kick; eating healthy, walking every day and resting as much as I could and doing what I could to help it. That in my own mind was something positive.” “I suppose my biggest thankfulness is the baby and to get that across for anybody who thinks that breast cancer will have a major affect on their fertility, that it’s not necessarily so. It doesn’t mean you won’t be able to have a child.” Taylor offers some advice for anyone going through a similar dilemma that she experienced; “The Irish cancer society have workshops which were very good and I’d highly recommend and sort of counseling to anyone feeling under the weather or frustrated with their situations.” She concludes reassuringly.
Srutháin COBÁC le cloisteáil go soléir Oíche Domhnaigh seo caite-déanach go leor, na bóithre ciúin i gcomparáid leis an torann a bheadh le cloisteáil an lá dár gcionn, an aer fuar ach uaimhneach. Bhí mé ag siúl abahile, ag smaoineamh faoin seachtain romham (agus an deireadh seachtaine seo caite, ar ndóigh, ach sin scéal eile). I ngan fhios dom féin, thosaigh mé ag tabhairt faoi deara fuaim coitianta go leor sa cheantar seo i mBaile Átha Cliath, ach ceann nach gcloistear i gceart go minic. Ba í an fhuaim sin sruthán An Dothra, le cloisteáil go soléir nuair a déist mé leis. Coicís o shin, d’éagraigh an LawSoc eachtra de chaighdéan idirnáisiúnta, Bronnadh Bailíocht Onórach ar Noam Chomsky. Is dia éigin é Chomsky do roinnt mhiath dúinn anseo- éinne a bhfuil aon bhaint acu leis an bhfealsúnacht, leis an teangeolaíocht, leis an bpolaitíocht, is ábhair eile nach iad, is docha go bhfuil staidear déanta acu ar
Chomsky agus ar a chuid oibre. Nuair a tháinig sé anseo, áfach, agus a thug sé léacht do shlua de bhreis agus 500, ní dóigh liom go raibh tromlach mholadh na hoíche tuillte aige. Seachas sin, cheap mé go raibh sé tuillte ag na mic léinn siúd a d’oibrigh chomh dian sin ar son na hócáide seo. Gan iad, cinnte, bheadh focail Noam Chomsky cloiste againn, ach ní bhéidís cloiste again uaidh go pearsanta. Sreabhadh beag amháin. Ag obair ar son cúise níos carthanúla a bhí a dream a chodlaigh lasmiugh den leabharlann an seachtain seo caite. Dream ó UCDSVP a bhí ann, ag fanacht ann don seachtain chun aird a tharraingt ar an gcruatán a fhulaingíone ag daoine anseo in Eirinn, i mBaile Atha Cliath, mar gheall ar an mbochtanas. Oibríonn an cumann leo siúd chuile lá- ag obair ar na soup-runs gach oíche, ag déanamh DIY ina gcuid árasáin agus dtithe ag an deireadh seachtaine, ag imirt peile leo siúd i Mountjoy. Sreabhadh beag eile.
Bíonn torann na ráiméise le cloisteáil rómhinic sa lá atá inniú ann. Bíonn scáth pearsanta de shaghas éigin orainn go léir. Lenár gcuid trácht pearsanta, agus glóranna arda timpeall orainn, is ar éigean go mbíonn fuaim an tsruathán le cloisteáil. Ach nuair a éistimid, clositear sreabhadh mac léinn nach bhfuil aon bhaint aige leis an léann. Lasmuigh de na léachtlanna, lasmuigh den leabharlann, ar ndóigh, tá sruathán eile le cloisteáil i UCD. Sruthán nuálaíochta, sruthán tuiscint sóisialta, sruthán dúthrachta. Ná déanaimís dearmad ar an sruthán seo. Ach, leis an méid atá ag tarlú anseo, is dócha nach mbeidh an seans sin againn. Molaim sibh go léir. Go leanfaidh sruthán domhain COBÁC ar aghaidh leis na cianta Orna Mulhern
College Tribune Volume 23 Issue 6 November 17th 2009