'maybe my new normal, is abnormal' Annie's Story

Annie was diagnosed when she was 31 weeks pregnant with her fourth child.

In Annie's case, after biopsies and surgery, she was told she had Oestrogen Positive Breast Cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes. This is her story…

'Tiredness and lumpy breasts are not unusual in pregnancy. I was certain I had a blocked milk duct caused by my ill-fitting underwired bra. They say cancerous lumps aren't painful, but my lump hurt. After I had received my diagnosis the extreme tiredness I had felt for the whole summer finally made sense. The tiredness was like nothing I've felt before. My midwife said it was caused by pregnancy and running around after three children, but it felt like more than that to me.

Fortunately, my diagnosis seems to have had little impact on my baby. She was born early due to a metabolic disorder she was diagnosed with shortly after birth, although I do feel bad that she had to stop all breast milk at a month old so I could start chemo. I think I've struggled more knowing that this is my last baby and I haven't been able to enjoy the experience in the way I had hoped. We've had lots of time apart with being in hospital and I've missed out on things as I just haven't been well enough. My older children have managed amazingly well, but my toddler becomes very clingy after each of my hospital stays and the older two have both suffered with nightmares. We also have all the other effects of a cancer diagnosis too; constant worry over survival statistics, chemo and radiotherapy side effects, plus struggles with my arm due to surgery and the inevitable financial issues.

The first thing I wanted to do when I found out I had cancer was to hear of other people in the same situation. Cancer during pregnancy feels incredibly lonely but it's support from people like Mummy's Star that help us to feel as though someone is there holding our hand. The Mummy's Star Forum was so reassuring. I spent an entire day reading other people's stories. I learnt that some people had it worse than me and I also learnt that others got through it ok. It gave me hope that I would come through this. Along with the diagnosis came an inability to concentrate on anything. Mummy's Star helped and filled out forms for me. They got me a weekly support worker from HomeStart and also filled out grant application forms. Mummy's Star awarded me a grant so that I could have a 'night nanny' to look after my baby after each chemo session which meant I could get some sleep when I felt at my most tired and sick, allowing me to be a nicer mummy for my children during the days. My husband and I are incredibly fortunate to have family living locally who have been unbelievably supportive, plus we also live in the most amazing village and they have all worked together to help us through this awful situation.

Nothing about this experience seems normal. But maybe my new normal is abnormal. The closest I've come to normality is when one radiologist was introducing me to another as a friend of an old school friend. I just happened to be lying down topless about to have radiotherapy whilst we were discussing my friend!

My advice to other mums in this situation is to focus on the positives. It's a horrible time, but if you only see the sickness, tiredness and loss of things you will constantly feel down. If you look hard enough you can find a good thing in just about anything and you need to be able to smile at something to get through this.'

Annie x

Read more about Annie here on her blog: https://b-m.facebook.com/A-Bump-and-A-Lump-364062667382327/

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