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How It Feels Being Told You Have Breast Cancer

by LaurettaCWright
Being Told You Have Breast Cancer

In March I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I have tried a number of times to write about this before, but never quite summoned up the courage to do so – until now.

That’s mostly because when cancer hits you, it feels like your whole life has been turned upside down. You literally don’t know what to do with yourself.

After being told I had breast cancer, I walked around in a daze, looking and acting more like a zombie than Lauretta. I couldn’t think straight – I was in total shock.  And that's the first thing you feel after being told you have breast cancer.

It’s fair to say that all my family were dumbstruck too. We hugged each other (and told each other that we loved one another) more in those immediate days that followed than we had ever done before. It’s funny what something as serious as cancer does to a family isn’t it?

For a start, it really puts things in perspective. I very quickly learned to ignore things that would ordinarily have been daily irritations. Things that used to wind me up very quickly became insignificant overnight; I had much bigger things on my plate.

Finding my happy

A couple of days after finding out, I called up two friends: Kerry and Tania. Kerry (from Kerry’s Life and Loves) was a sound bet to call. Her husband has cancer and I knew that she would know exactly what to say. Poor Kerry though; when I told her I think she was driving at the time and had to pull over for fear of having an accident!

Although Kerry was initially upset by my news, she didn’t falter in delivering some powerful words of wisdom to me, telling me that I’d get through this and to remain strong and positive. I’m glad I called her – at this point I was hanging onto every word of advice and I needed to hear some positive words to combat the negativity that had consumed my whole being.

The second person I called was Tania. Tania was my brother’s ex girlfriend from way back and I had heard that she had beaten breast cancer twice.

Bear in mind that I hadn’t seen or spoken to Tania in about 20 or so years. Now imagine me calling her up out of the blue and trying to tell her (incoherently through my sobbing) that I had breast cancer. It was actually a bit embarrassing, as she had to ask me to repeat myself a few times. When she finally understood what I was trying to say, she too was full of positivity.

And there I was expecting these two awesome ladies to dish out the full sympathy: oh no, they were having none of that “feeling sorry for yourself” – it was all about empowering me to stay strong. At the time I didn’t feel like staying strong; I had all the wind knocked out of my sails and I was mulling over the options while I was down.

But, interestingly, Tania said something to me that would come to be a huge help to me through the initial dark days. She told me to write.

“You’re a journalist Lauretta. You’d be great to write down your thoughts, feelings and experiences. It will be therapeutic. And one day, when you’re out the other end, you can look back on all this and be proud of yourself. And maybe help others too.”

Her words struck a chord with me. Actually, it was the part where she said it might help others that piqued my interest. If I could pass on any knowledge or positivity to someone else going through something similar, then it would be worth doing. And as I started to write, I found it cathartic. But I was just still scared to put it on the blog and share my deepest darkest secrets with everyone else – until now.

The Secret Sea

When I started to write my little diary VIP and I hadn’t told the kids about the cancer. I wanted to try and protect them, as I didn’t know the full story (how bad it was, if it had spread, if it was treatable etc).

But young Nadja must have a sixth sense or something and picked up on every little detail. That girl is something else. I joked to VIP that she should be a police officer, work in MI5 or just be a human lie detector – she’s a natural.

But still, we hid things from her. And so I gave my diary the working title of “The Secret Sea” (as I had to keep ‘C’ secret from the kids). Those first two weeks were the hardest. If the kids were around we couldn’t talk about it and that meant not showing our emotions – try doing that when you’re riding an emotional rollercoaster; when the kids were in bed we’d talk in secret, sharing our fears. It helped but it was so hard not being able to do that openly.

Being Told You Have Breast Cancer

Anyway, the Secret Sea is where I started a new chapter of my life – just four days after my diagnosis. So, I thought I’d share some of the extracts of the diary that I wrote in those very early days…

“It’s day four since I was told I have Sea and I’m still in shock. I woke up this morning and wondered why I hadn’t yet had a nightmare about what has just happened to my family and I. And then I thought about the irony in that thought. I don’t need to have a nightmare, I’m living it the moment I open my eyes every morning and I want to go back to sleep so I don’t have to deal with this sickening reality.

“I actually don’t know what Sea is. You know, the real nitty gritty. All I know is that it’s very dangerous and it can kill you. I don’t want to die, I’m too young. I have young children. How can I leave them now? They would both be devastated.

So it’s day four and I’m none the wiser about my “condition”. I somehow feel that if I read about it and acknowledge it, then it’s really there. It reminds me of a plane incident I experienced back in 2014.

I was on my way back from a conference in Turkey with a few other delegates. It was crazy o’clock in the morning and a few hours into the flight, when everyone was comfortably asleep, the steward started running down the aisle shouting for everyone to put their seat belts on. An automated voice came over the tannoy telling us to brace for impact. And then, without any explanation whatsoever, the plane went into a steep nosedive. I’m not even talking about dropping a few hundred feet at a time, I’m talking the nose was literally pointing at the ground.  

And as we went down, there was an eerie silence, broken only by the woman behind me who started to sob about her children and the tannoy reminding us to brace. I remember looking down at the trainers on the floor and wondering if I should be wearing my trainers or not when they found my body. The things that go through your mind in what you think are your last moments!

I looked around me. Everyone was bracing – even the air stewards. And for some reason I just couldn’t brace. In my mind I thought that if I braced I was going to accept that I was going to die and I refused. Something inside me was telling me whatever happens I can survive this.

The story ends with us making an emergency landing at Izmir airport. Four years later I learned that due to Pegasus Airlines’ inability to provide us with real time information as the incident occurred (apparently they were very low on oxygen and had to take the plane down quickly to get some back in the cabin), and us fearing the worst, we all celebrated the fact that we made it out alive, hugging and holding each other and making calls to our loved ones.

Being Told You Have Breast Cancer

I later discovered that most of the delegates on that flight had counselling in the months and years that followed. I was one of the few that didn’t – and now I can’t get on a plane without having a mini panic attack inside. Shame, as I used to love flying. I’m still highly suspicious as to what happened that day, questioning the reasons why the oxygen masks didn’t fall if we were low on oxygen. Some people suggested as we were close to Syria, flying bullets had something to do with it. I guess I’ll never really know. All I know is that they handled the delivery of the news very badly.

Talking about the bad delivery of news, let me talk about Mr Kasem, my consultant. The way he delivered my cancer diagnosis was so dramatic. His pauses in between his sentences were probably only nano seconds, but they seemed like minutes.

“Spit it out” I wanted to shout. The nurse’s eyes were fixed on me. I could feel them burning a hole in my head. And by this alone, I knew it wasn’t great news.

I can’t really tell you much about what happened or what was said in those few moments after learning about my illness. I do remember saying “Oh, Ok!” while my brain desperately tried to catch up with what was happening.

I didn’t cry – I was in shock. I remember being led into another room and being given about 100 brochures and leaflets. It was only when the nurse said four little words to me that I broke down.

“What about the children?”  

She had found my Achilles heel. And it seems since that day when she asked me about my kids, I haven’t been able to stop the tears.

Back to the present

Of course there’s much more to the story in those early days after the diagnosis and it seems like so much has happened since.

In short, we told the kids, I told the rest my friends, I had hospital scans left, right and centre, I then had the operation to remove the tumour; I got my hair cut short and donated it to The Little Princesses Trust, raised almost £600 through my Facebook page, got two infections, ended up in A&E with a reaction to my antibiotics, had a shed load of dental work done, found a breast cancer charity to have some reflexology, minfulness and nutrition classes, discovered clean living and then got a tooth infection and ended up on more antibiotics. And that’s just the start of things…!

And now? Now I’m recovering from my operation and desperately trying to get full use of my arm back. It’s amazing what removing a tumour from your breast does to other parts of your body – I would never have guessed!

I’m also counting down the days to my first chemo session. I have no idea what to expect as everyone reacts differently, but I’m hoping that I’m one of those people that just feels a bit tired – I can only hope!

So that’s basically where my life is right now. One thing I would say throughout all of this though is that being told you have cancer really puts things in perspective.

Being Told You Have Breast Cancer

In the months leading up to the diagnosis I had never felt fitter, healthier or happier than I have done at any other time in my life.

I have two beautiful children, a husband that dotes on me, a wonderful work/life balance and a strong, fit and healthy body. I suppose that’s why the cancer news was such a huge shock. How can I have cancer when I don’t feel ill?

And as much as the news was catastrophic for us as a family, I’m grateful for all the good things in life – and that’s what I’m trying to take away from this whole experience. To focus on the positives, the wonderful moments I enjoy with my family, the memories we create and that sense of being loved and cared for. And there’s no greater feeling than that is there?

A Pin For Your Health Board

What does it really feel like being told you have breast cancer? Here's an honest account of my experience...

48 comments

Jo - Mother of Teenagers 30th January 2020 - 10:04 pm

Lauretta I have found you and am humbled by your stories. What a story, what a battle. I hope that there is light at the end of your tunnel. Sending you much respect and love. x

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LaurettaCWright 12th February 2020 - 8:48 pm

Thank you so much Jo! That’s very kind of you – and I appreciate the comment xx

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Andrew 8th July 2019 - 7:19 pm

I am deeply touched by this post, Lauretta. I am really proud to be your friend, more so than ever because of the strength, the honesty and the clarity of purpose you represent. 💕

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LaurettaCWright 8th July 2019 - 8:01 pm

Thank you Andrew – means a lot coming from you.

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Auntie Corraine & Uncle Jack 25th June 2019 - 4:38 pm

Lauretta you are such a lovely person and I admire you so much . The way you are reaching out and sharing your experience is so moving and an inspiration to us all. We (all the Reddingtons) are rooting for you all to stay strong and get through this and we would love to come down to celebrate with you when it’s all over. We send all our love and support to you all.xxxxxx

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LaurettaCWright 25th June 2019 - 10:46 pm

Thank you so much – that’s really kind of you and I feel very lucky to have such a supportive family – thank you. And of course we’d all love to see you when it’s all over and raise those glasses – hopefully to an amazing 2020! xxx

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Jeanette 5th June 2019 - 6:32 pm

OMG Lauretta, what a totally inspirational piece this is….it’s brought tears to my eyes. Keeping your diary will not only help you get through this ordeal and make you stronger but it will also help so many other people n the same boat. You are, and always have been, such a strong and caring woman and I have no doubt in my mind at all that you’ll make a full recovery. Much love to you, J and the kids. Xxxx

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LaurettaCWright 7th June 2019 - 8:05 pm

Thanks so much Jeanette – and for your support as well. It really means a lot. I really hope you’re right about inspiring people – it’s one of the things that is keeping me strong and positive – well, most of the time! And of course – I hope you’re right about the full recovery. I’m staying as positive as I can and keeping the faith – if everyone believes in me, then I’ve got to as well xx

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kerry 25th May 2019 - 10:47 am

Lauretta, I have not been able to read this until now. Its all to familiar and raw for me. You are a fabulous lady, and I have no doubt, not one doubt in my mind that you will get through this and come out the other side. Your journey is your journey and whatever you need to do to get through it, do it. You are strong, amazing and fabulous and stronger than this disease. Oh and you rock the short hair! Love as always, kerry xx

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LaurettaCWright 25th May 2019 - 4:08 pm

I completely understand Kerry, but let me take this opportunity to thank you for being strong and positive for me. I’m so pleased I turned to you in my hour of need – you knew exactly what to say to offer me some comfort – which couldn’t have been easy knowing what you you and Nik are going through. Thanks for being a wonderful friend as always. xxx

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Kara 20th May 2019 - 5:25 pm

I am so sorry to hear this news, but thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. Good luck with your treatment xxx

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LaurettaCWright 20th May 2019 - 7:54 pm

Thank you Kara – that’s very kind x

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Carolle 20th May 2019 - 12:44 am

You are wonder woman. You are strong and even when you feel weak know that you have a strength in you that will astonish you. Praying for you as you face the challenges that you will find blessings and joy in everyday. Love forever 😘

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LaurettaCWright 20th May 2019 - 7:38 am

Thank you Carolle – I’m sure there will be some darker times ahead but it’s lovely to get such encouragement and know that everyone is gunning for me! Thank you x

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Tania 19th May 2019 - 9:36 pm

My dear Lauretta,
Do you know how chuffed I am that you found strength to get to this point? It will see you through now. And those who have yet to be struck with this bloody horrendous disease in the future will remember you and you and your strength and draw their own strength from it.
It’s just a life inconvenience and even though I know you won’t stop working, you’ll be back full swing when the road to recovery is completed. With you all the way, my friend. ♥️

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LaurettaCWright 19th May 2019 - 10:15 pm

i do hope so Tania – and if it wasn’t for your words of wisdom, I would probably have never started writing about this. Thanks for giving me the courage – and for your wonderful, ongoing support. You’ve been a HUGE inspiration for me! xxx

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Andrew 19th May 2019 - 9:31 pm

The big ‘C’ has picked the wrong super woman to pick on this time – it won’t know what hit it.

Very brave of you to be sharing your personal journey with everyone. I’m sure it will help you and it will most certainly inspire and help anyone else going through this torrid of journey’s.

You will see many helpful light’s from all those around you offering their love and support through the dark.

Thank you for sharing. Stay strong Punkette xx

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LaurettaCWright 19th May 2019 - 10:04 pm

That’s music to my ears and really lovely to read all the wonderful support and encouragement – friends & family will see me through this – and thanks to you for checking in on me – it’s appreciated! xx

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Natasha 19th May 2019 - 9:03 pm

I did exactly the same & have written a journal. Days when you don’t know how to explain yourself or perhaps don’t want to feel you are a burden to people it’s a great way to unload an overflowing head.

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LaurettaCWright 19th May 2019 - 9:21 pm

Oh absolutely Natasha. Most of the time I’m handling this well, but there are days that just creep up and consume you and you are left wondering what will happen – these are the days when writing about it helps the most. Thanks for commenting x

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Tony Aydiner 19th May 2019 - 5:03 pm

I think that’s the best piece of writing you’ve ever done. The honesty and emotion shine through. Well done sis, for all of it, and particularly your positive attitude. Inspirational xx

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LaurettaCWright 19th May 2019 - 7:52 pm

Thanks brother – It was certainly very cathartic writing about it, so I’ll continue doing so, especially if I can impart any inspiration, positivity or knowledge to others going through similar experiences. Thanks for your support XX

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Nikki - Notes of Life 18th May 2019 - 3:33 pm

I think that it’s great that you’re able to share this with us. I hope you have a swift recovery. Take care 🙂

P.S. You look great with short hair! 🙂

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LaurettaCWright 19th May 2019 - 10:58 am

That’s really kind – thanks Nikki – I hope you are well x

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Clare Nicholas 17th May 2019 - 5:18 pm

Lauretta, omg I’ve no words but wanted you to know we are all here for you.

You’ve got this and we’ve all got your back if you need us

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LaurettaCWright 17th May 2019 - 7:53 pm

Thank you Clare – that’s very kind of you and it’s wonderful to hear so many people supporting and encouraging me, it really is.

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Anosa 17th May 2019 - 8:51 am

Lauretta, I am sorry to hear that and thankful that you said this story, when my auntie got diagnosed we didn’t know how to move forward, she more so than the rest of us. I love what Tania said, you’re Lauretta.

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LaurettaCWright 17th May 2019 - 8:56 am

Thank you Anosa – I really hope you auntie makes a speedy recovery and stays positive about her upcoming treatment.

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Parenthodo4ever 16th May 2019 - 9:17 pm

Lauretta, what an amazing post. Thank you so much for sharing because this way you motivated thousands out there. It is one of the most common problems in my country, I am so grateful you support and keep all these women positive out there. Thank you

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LaurettaCWright 17th May 2019 - 4:59 am

That’s very kind to comment and I’m thrilled I’m inspiring/educating others – it gives me the momentum I need to carry on, so thank you for leaving this.

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Leah Munden 15th May 2019 - 11:23 pm

What a brave post, thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. You’ve got this. Keep that positivity going and it will help you through the hard days xx

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LaurettaCWright 16th May 2019 - 8:31 am

Thank you Leah – I think you’re right about keeping the positivity going to get me through the rough times – that’s all I can do!

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Lorraine 14th May 2019 - 8:54 pm

Oh Lauretta what a story, you’re a strong person, that airline story shows that. I wish you the best recovery & am here if there’s anything I can do.
Lorraine x

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LaurettaCWright 23rd May 2019 - 9:35 pm

That’s so kind – thank you Lorraine. Shame about the airline story really…I used to enjoy flying!

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Nadia - Scandi 14th May 2019 - 4:45 pm

You know I’m here if you ever need to talk. Well done for sharing your journey so bravely. Wishing you a full recovery. xx

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LaurettaCWright 15th May 2019 - 10:38 am

Thanks so much – that’s really kind Nadia. x

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Laura Dove 14th May 2019 - 1:51 pm

Oh gosh you are so brave Lauretta, I really hope you make a full recovery! xxx

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LaurettaCWright 15th May 2019 - 10:38 am

Thanks Laura – keeping the chin up and staying positive. That’s all I can do xx

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Talya 14th May 2019 - 7:53 am

Darling I had no idea…what a brave post – I can imagine how many times it took you to write this post. But I know you are a strong woman and will be an inspiration to so many xxxx

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LaurettaCWright 15th May 2019 - 10:39 am

Thank you Talya – I hope to educate and inspire – it gives me that sense of purpose to get through the tough times xx

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Serin Quinn 14th May 2019 - 7:45 am

Thank you for sharing this! You’ve been so brave, I can’t even imagine!

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LaurettaCWright 15th May 2019 - 10:39 am

Thank you Serin – that’s very kind x

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Mum 13th May 2019 - 8:43 pm

I am just so proud of how brave you are. I would give anything to go through this for you. You are so strong and if anyone can do this, you can, you are my girl. We are all here to help you through it and we will all come out the other side. We all love you so much. xxx

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LaurettaCWright 15th May 2019 - 10:40 am

We will come out the other side – stronger than ever. Thanks for being my rock as always xxx

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Alex Grace 13th May 2019 - 7:03 pm

I can only imagine what it took to share this Lauretta, but thank you so much for sharing. I know this will help so many people to read and relate. You are one very inspirational and brave lady xx

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LaurettaCWright 15th May 2019 - 10:41 am

Ah thanks Alex – I’ve got a few more stories to share along my journey I’m sure. It’s helping me too which is great. xxx

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Jon 13th May 2019 - 2:05 pm

Oh my word what an amazing personal story. It truly shows that things can happen to you no matter what sort of life you live or where your health is at!

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LaurettaCWright 15th May 2019 - 10:42 am

Absolutely! And that’s why it’s important that people are vigilant about their bodies – you just never know what life is going to throw at you next. Thanks Jon.

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