Tina Smith’s breast cancer diagnosis during the COVID-19 pandemic is an important example of how breast cancer awareness is lifesaving. Tina has shared her experience of being diagnosed during lock-down, discovering the benefits of a healthier lifestyle and setting her sights on climbing the UK’s 3 tallest peaks to raise vital funds for Prevent Breast Cancer.
I am taking on the National 3 Peaks Challenge in support of all women and men who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
I found a very small lump in my right breast at the end of May 2020. I knew an early diagnosis of breast cancer is key to a better outcome and therefore contacted my GP surgery immediately. I was then referred to the breast clinic at my local hospital. Following 2 ultrasounds, a mammogram and 2 biopsies, I was diagnosed with a grade 2, oestrogen receptor positive, progesterone receptor positive, HER2-negative invasive ductal carcinoma, with additional ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) in early July 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, appointments for biopsies were limited, and therefore it took 6 weeks to be officially diagnosed.
The wait for the results were quite lengthy, and my sleep and appetite were affected throughout this time. Finally, I had an appointment for my results. I remember being sat in the consultation room and waiting for the breast surgeon, then being delivered the news that I unfortunately did have breast cancer. It was a most surreal moment, almost like it was not me being diagnosed, but someone else. Half of the information relayed to me at the time of diagnosis just seemed to merge into one mumbled sound and I just sat there listening, but not really taking it all in.
Following the initial shock, I constantly told myself that I had to remain positive and keep myself busy. Too much time on my hands would allow my mind to wander to some very dark places. For me, a positive mind and keeping busy were key for both dealing with my diagnosis and recovery.
At the beginning of September, I underwent a mastectomy and had some lymph nodes removed for biopsy. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, no one could come with me to the hospital or visit. I recovered well, and 2 weeks after my surgery I was advised that the cancer had been contained in my right breast, with no vascular or lymph node involvement, and I would therefore not require any radiotherapy or chemotherapy. I was, however, prescribed Tamoxifen which is a hormone therapy used to treat hormone receptor-positive breast cancer.
3 months prior to being diagnosed with breast cancer, I made changes to my lifestyle and started running 3-4 times per week. I noticed a marked improvement in my general health and sleep. Following my diagnosis and surgery, I have tried to continue to remain fit and healthy and I am passionate about raising awareness of the importance of early diagnosis and the prevention of breast cancer. I therefore, decided I needed to take on a difficult challenge in order to push myself and hopefully raise money for charity.
I’ll be climbing 3 mountains, including Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon within 24 hours, including travel. The challenge commences at Ben Nevis in Scotland, then on to Scafell Pike in England (which will be climbed in darkness) and then Snowdon in Wales for the finale.
WHY EARLY DIAGNOSIS IS LIFESAVING
Without an early diagnosis, it could have been very different for me. I plan to have reconstructive surgery in the future, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I will not be able to have the surgery for some time. Although I am still quite early on in my recovery, I remain positive about my future and I have made changes to my diet and continue to stay active.
A breast cancer free future for me would mean that no one else would ever have to receive the devastating news that they have breast cancer.
If you’d like to support Tina and help her reach her £1000 goal, please visit her giving page.