Mums with breast cancer – a personal experience

It was a nasty old time, being pregnant with breast cancer.

The lump was missed on my first visit to the GP. She had just checked me in to a hospital for the birth and my 10 minutes was up. After a hasty feel, she thought it was milk ducts. But over some months the lump got bigger.

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Get a second opinion with breast cancer. GPs are notoriously bad at recognising cancer symptoms. And bad at admitting when they get it wrong.

After the ‘lumpiness’ was reviewed, she referred me to a hospital without a breast cancer unit, so I started to do my homework.


Moral 2

Always do your homework when dealing with the NHS. If EVER you find yourself in this situation, let me save you some mileage. The man to see is Prof Ian Smith at the Marsden. You can request him at your GPs, they are obliged to send you where you wish. Wherever you live, make the journey. Patients come from all over the world to the Royal Marsden, it is the cream of the cream in cancer care in the UK. Everything that is tried and tested they throw at you, no quibbling about costs, and even the cutting edge stuff too. It is bang next to the Institute for Cancer Research.


Moral 3

Don’t go anywhere else, especially never EVER  to your local general. I was assured by his long-term monitoring research on such children, that the foetus would not be harmed after it reached 12 weeks. ‘But we are told COFFEE’s bad in pregnancy, and you’re telling me chemo’s fine?!’ I protested. He shrugged. ‘I don’t believe any of that coffee stuff’. The chemo had to go ahead while our daughter was in utero because my cancer was aggressive and stage 3 by this time. My daughter writhed after a chemo session, so something was getting through the umbilical cord.

While I vented about ignorant GPs, later I realised that if I had been correctly diagnosed the first time, it was within the 3 month period where the chemo would have triggered a miscarriage. So my GP’s mistake meant I was not put in the situation where I had to choose to terminate my child’s life. Still, I was never given my prognosis (a bad sign), and when I tearfully managed to whisper to one registrar ‘I need 20 years’, the doc just looked piteously at me.


Madeleine at the Royal Albert Hall

But that was 15 years ago, and I’m proud to say, both mum and daughter are still very much alive and kicking! In tribute to all the extra time I have been awarded, I send a big chunk of money to the Marsden every January that I see. It’s how you have to live, every day ‘sucking the marrow out of life’ (Dead Poets’ Society).

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