My name is Avril Tierney. I’m a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, a sister and I have Metastatic Breast Cancer since 2020 but have had cancer since 2019.
In 2019 after finding a lump in my right breast I attended my GP in Portarlington. I was referred for a triple assessment in St Vincent’s hospital as an urgent referral due to the size of the lump. Within weeks I had this assessment and 2 weeks later was told the horrendous news that I had Triple Negative Breast Cancer and would need to start treatment as soon as possible. I was told it was very treatable but that triple negative can be tricky to treat at times. After scans I then met my oncologist Prof. Janice Walshe where we went through my plan. Chemo, lumpectomy and then radiation.
Those first few weeks I felt like my world had been upended. I had panic attacks for the first time in my life and felt utterly out of control. It took some time to gather myself but I woke one morning to a realization that the one thing I could control was how I was in this situation. I could continue to panic or I could refocus, stay present and just get on with whatever came my way. Easier said than done but I got there. The power of staying present is massive.
After primary treatment I did oral chemo to ensure that all cancer cells were captured. The hope being that that would be it however that wasn’t to be. After oral chemo had finished I had a CT scan which showed 2 cancerous nodules on my upper right lung. I was informed that these were removable and treatable. So I was on the treatment train again and it moved fast
August 2020 I had the upper right lobe removed from my lung and after recovering from that I began IV chemo once again. When this was complete I then had another CT scan which showed further spread in the same lung. Unfortunately this time it was treatable but not curable so I now moved into a stage 4 diagnoses. That was nearly 2 years ago. It was the worst news. I was exhausted and completely devastated. It took some time to gather myself.
I’ve always been surrounded by my wonderful family and friends & this really carried me through this time.
So treatment began again. This came in the form of a combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy. I also decided to cold cap so I wouldn’t lose my hair again. Thankfully I have responded well to this and have seen the tumours half in size after 3 months and they have continued to stay stable since. The side effects of this treatment have been mild allowing me to get back to feeling a sense of normality for first time in a long time. This may sound strange to some considering the diagnoses.
I have made a conscious decision to live my life as normally as possible, to adjust to the new change but with forward motion. Throughout I have tried to be a present Mam to my children & and active participant in the rest of life. I went back to work last year and this has been an amazing move forward for me. I try to take each day as it comes. To stay present and focused on what that day brings. This is not always easy and has taken a lot of time & effort to get to the point of being able to do it but it is possible. For example when I have a scan, I do the scan and try to move forward with the least amount of worry possible. For me I see the worry as a waste of time and certainly doesn’t change the outcome but it makes a hugely positive difference to me and those around me. However, staying present also means accepting the bad days when they come too and they do come. There is a lot involved when living with cancer but the keyword for me is “living”!
A metastatic diagnosis doesn’t mean life stops, yes it’s devastating at first but you can move forward and live a fulfilled life with hope for the future especially with the advances of research into medications and targeted therapies.
I am proud to be an Ambassador for the Breast Cancer Ireland #Metastatic Matters campaign.