Tia Howorth – My breast cancer journey

Author: Tia Howorth - July 6, 2022

Tia Howorth

 

Here at Prevent Breast Cancer, we’re always looking for supporters to share their inspirational stories.

Tia has been a long-term supporter of Prevent Breast Cancer for a number of years, raising nearly £7,000 in the process, from selling crafts that she makes herself. She hopes by sharing her experience, she can help someone going through their own potential breast cancer diagnosis.

This is Tia’s story, in her own words.

 

HOW MY STORY STARTED

My name is Tia. This is my breast cancer journey.

My breast cancer journey started in 2012 after I had my first mammogram at the age of 48. I was so lucky as the government was piloting a scheme to bring the age down from 50 to 47 in the area where I live.

I was happy to go for this as my mum had had breast cancer in her sixties and I felt it was good to get myself checked out!

I went along to the mobile unit for my mammogram. I’d heard all sorts of horror stories about having them, but it was fine, not painful at all! Just a little bit of pressure.

After two weeks, I received a letter saying that I needed to make an appointment at The Nightingale Centre at Wythenshawe Hospital to have another mammogram. I then made an appointment in early December. In the letter there was also an invitation to join a trial called TOMMY, which I did. All I had to do was have an extra mammogram so it could be sent all around the world (all personal info removed) to help people who were checking mammograms for abnormalities. At this point I didn’t know what was around the corner for me, but I wanted to help people like me and my mum, so felt it was a good opportunity to do so.

I had my appointment and was told they had found calcification in my right breast. This is tiny specks of calcium spread over a small area. All of them put together didn’t even make up a grain of salt, so tiny, very, very tiny. There were no lumps or anything like that.  They were concerned that there may be something lurking underneath, as this is often a sign. I was advised to have a biopsy to make sure.

I then went back to The Nightingale Centre between Christmas and New Year to have the biopsy. It was a little bit uncomfortable as it was done during a mammogram, where tiny bits of my breast tissue were removed. The worst thing was the noise of the instrument when it took the sample! It was a proper crunch!

MY DIAGNOSIS

I was called back to The Nightingale Centre on the 4th of January 2013. My husband and I were shown into a room with sofas and nice pictures on the wall, not a surgical environment at all. I instinctively knew we were getting bad news. I said to my husband this is not good.

A female doctor and a couple of nurses came in and the doctor sat right opposite me and looked straight into my eyes and said:

“You do know you have breast cancer, don’t you?”

I actually didn’t know and at that moment went deaf! My head was whirling not sure what to think!

But then she said:

“Well actually, you have got DCIS (which is ductal carcinoma in situ). This is a cell that sits under the calcification but has not turned into breast cancer yet!”

I was shocked! Not sure what to think. Had I got breast cancer or not? I was advised to have a lumpectomy to remove the breast tissue that contained the DCIS and the calcification.

MY TREATMENT

I had my first surgery a couple of weeks later. I had to have a wire inserted into my breast under a mammogram to the point of where they thought the DCIS was situated. As there was no lump this was the only way to get to the correct area of my breast. It looked like I had a remote-controlled boob! This made me laugh! I had four and a half ounces removed from my right breast and the incision was quite small and very neat.  I was treated so well in the hospital; everyone was just so lovely.

I returned for the results a couple of weeks later and saw Mr Lester Barr who was very pleased to tell me that the DCIS was non active and hadn’t developed into cancer! Boy, were we relieved! However, because they could not see the cell, I was told they needed to make sure they had got it all and I was advised to have another operation to remove a little bit more tissue to make sure they had got it all, which I did in the March.

I was advised to have radiotherapy to make sure there was nothing left active in the breast, so I was referred to The Christie Hospital.

I had 15 sessions of radiotherapy, starting in the May at The Christie department at Oldham Hospital. First, I had a couple of scans and a couple of tattoos, which I have to say are smaller than my freckles!

The radiotherapy was fine. I was given plenty of cream to look after my skin and I was ok. I must say though that I didn’t rest after having this and I now know this was a mistake. I didn’t feel ill in any way and thought I could just carry on as normal, but it caught up with me a couple of weeks later. Please, if you have radiotherapy, make sure to rest!

I then had a yearly mammogram at The Nightingale Centre for 5 years and I am now back to the normal every 3-year ones! I had my latest in January this year and again I was all clear, making it 9 years since I had my diagnosis! Whoop, whoop!

I was told that the breast cancer (DCIS) that I had was non active, it might never have turned invasive in my lifetime, but it also could have turned into cancer the next day! I personally could not have lived with that inside me, it would have been like living with a ticking time bomb! I was told to stay vigilant and continue to check myself as even though this had been removed, there was still a chance of getting breast cancer in the future, which is the same for everyone.

To help my healing process, I started to craft. To my surprise, my friends and family really liked what I was making, and they were always asking me to make things for them to give as gifts. I cover my costs and ask for a small donation to Prevent Breast Cancer. Up to date I have raised almost £7000 for the charity, so it’s a winner, winner!  The crafting helps me, my friends and family, but also Prevent Breast Cancer! How good is that?!

 

Thank you to Tia for sharing her story.

 

You can learn more about DCIS here on the Prevent Breast Cancer website, and also from the NHS website.

If you too like Tia would like to share your experience with breast cancer, please get in touch today by emailing info@preventbreastcancer.org.uk.

 

ABOUT PREVENT BREAST CANCER

Prevent Breast Cancer is the only UK charity entirely dedicated to the prediction and prevention of breast cancer – we’re committed to freeing the world from the disease altogether. Unlike many cancer charities, we’re focused on preventing, rather than curing. Promoting early diagnosis, screening and lifestyle changes, we believe we can stop the problem before it starts. And being situated at the only breast cancer prevention centre in the UK, we’re right at the front-line in the fight against the disease.

 

Join us today and help us create a future free from breast cancer. If you have any questions or concerns, email info@preventbreastcancer.org.uk today.