Arlene Hennessy

In January 2018, I found a lump in my left breast which I first thought was bruising from my underwire bra; I was very heavy-chested. Then one morning in March I woke up and had a tiny speck of blood on my nightdress. That night there was another tiny speck on the inside of my bra, and I knew it must have been from my nipple. I went to the GP who told me to go straight to A&E the following morning.  I had a look online and saw that there was a Breast Care Clinic in Beacon Hospital and phoned them.  They saw me that afternoon and I had a mammogram followed by a biopsy. Then followed 3/4 scary weeks of scans, more biopsies and an MRI in April 2018 before I was fully diagnosed with breast cancer which had also spread to my lymph nodes.

I had chemotherapy from May-September 2018. Then, I had a left mastectomy & lymph clearance the following month followed by Radiation in December. The most difficult thing for me was living with one breast.  I had a very good prosthetic but that didn’t eliminate the feeling of being incomplete and not sexy or feminine anymore. I felt mutilated any time I was undressing or glimpsed myself naked in the mirror.  My radiation oncologist recommended waiting a year to allow my skin to completely recover before reconstruction surgery.  It wasn’t until all this surgery was completed that I could return to feeling comfortable again with my body.

I had a few downs/low points with a loss of sensation, skin reactions etc. during treatment but you just go with the flow and do everything the doctors and nurses tell you. For almost 2 years my life was centered around doctors and hospital appointments. It was strange when that all finished, and I was a little unnerved but eventually I found my new rhythm.

I’m well and healthy now, however I do have annual check-ups with my wonderful oncologist Jenny Westrup. They say cancer is a journey, but it is so much more.  It takes over your life for a period or in some cases, for life.  It does make you see the beauty around you and in my case the wonderful family and friends I’m lucky to have in my life. Without them I couldn’t have got through it.  They helped me smile and laugh my way through it all.