My name is Juliette O Connell. I was 41 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. There was no family history in my family, and I was a keen cyclist. For me at 41, I wasn’t breast aware. I didn’t know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer apart from a lump. For me, my symptom was a rash across my collar bone and onto my left breast.
In June 2011, I noticed the rash, however it took me months before I had it checked out. When my son got sick in October, I took him to the doctor. As I was paying €50 for an appointment, my mentality was might as well get two seen for the price of one. I showed the doctor the rash and she sent a letter to the breast care unit in Limerick to get it checked out. She wasn’t concerned, so I wasn’t either. I never thought for one minute that this could be breast cancer. I had no weight loss, no tiredness – I was fit, healthy and well, enjoying my cycling and training for different events.
I received an appointment for the Breast care unit in December and was put on a waiting list for a mammogram. Whilst waiting for this appointment, my nipple on my left breast started to get sore. I didn’t really tell anyone about this, however as time went on it got very sore. I was using sudocrem on the nipple, but it wasn’t working. I didn’t realise that a sore nipple was a symptom of breast cancer.
I received the appointment in the post for my mammogram and was subsequently told I had breast cancer on the 9th of March 2012, ten months after I had first noticed the rash. I went through treatment, surgery & radiotherapy. It was a tough time, but I’m incredibly grateful that I’m now 11 years cancer free. I am now a member of the Breast Cancer Ireland family and working as one of their outreach coordinators in the Munster area. I love my job and I want to give this very important message to all.