My name is Denise and I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer in June 2017 at 36 years of age. A painful lump in my left breast prompted me to see my GP and after an examination Dr Clifford decided to put me on a two week course of antibiotics (due to the fact I had a abscess in my right breast 3 years prior which was remedied by medication). However, two weeks later the pain subsided but the lump remained. I hesitantly returned to Dr Clifford and she informed me the lump appeared to have increased in size. As a breast cancer survivor herself she was extremely proactive and immediately referred me to St Vincent’s Hospital for tests. After numerous mammograms, ultra-sounds and biopsies I was unexpectedly diagnosed with breast cancer. I was floored! I was the fittest and healthiest I had ever been in my life. I had just run my first marathon the previous October and I was running and circuit training up to five times a week. I am vegetarian, I don’t smoke, I only drink alcohol occasionally and I am only 36…surely I could not have cancer! Although an enormous shock, from day one I was determined cancer was not going to hold me back from living my best life. I have a loving family and a beautiful 12 year old girl named Hollie, so my only option was to battle this disease head on. I am naturally a very positive person so my daily mantra during treatment was ‘Get up, dress up, show up and NEVER give up!!’ I am fortunate enough that my strong mind and otherwise healthy body enabled me to keep running and working on my good days during chemo. Retaining my usual routine kept me mentally positive and I personally feel exercise not only aided my recovery from treatment, but it enabled me to catch up with my running friends who were of tremendous support to me. I am still overwhelmed by the amount of support and assistance I received from family, friends and neighbours. It still makes me emotional to think so many people had my back!
I underwent 20 weeks of chemotherapy which was not as daunting as I anticipated. Losing my lovely long hair was tough but I parked my vanity and told myself it was only temporary. I chose not to wear a wig but perfected the headscarf look and co-ordinated my headwear with all my outfits! The chemo successfully shrunk my 3.5cm tumour to the size of a pin head which was fantastic news. I had a lumpectomy in November 2017 followed by 20 sessions of radiotherapy which I completed in February 2018. At times the side effects from treatment were challenging both physically and emotionally but I found it manageable. For me, the good days far outweighed the bad. Having completed my treatment plan I now continue to live life to the absolute max. I wake with a smile every morning and I am genuinely grateful for each day, even Mondays! The one benefit of having cancer is that it has made me a stronger, more appreciative, better version of my previous self.
Since my diagnosis I have become extremely passionate about raising awareness, especially in younger women. I am delighted to support Breast Cancer Ireland in their campaign to promote education and raise awareness on the importance of breast health. During the past year I have raised funds by participating in the Great Pink Run and I danced in BCI Battle of the Stars last April, which was totally out of my comfort zone but an amazing experience. I endeavour to continue fundraising for invaluable research which is gradually transforming breast cancer from an often-fatal disease to a treatable long-term illness. Cancer treatment has advanced significantly in recent years. Thanks to research treatment is now tailor made for the individual and has never been as effective. I am a firm believer there is power in numbers and together we will kick breast cancers ass once and for all!!