Michelle's story – the incredible life events she’s achieved since her cancer treatment
Michelle’s has had two cancers, breast cancer in 2016 and ovarian cancer in 2018. Here, she talks about the impact this cancer journey had on her future hopes, and shares the incredible life events she’s achieved since her treatment ended.
Michelle explains “Since my cancer treatment finished 4 years ago, my life has changed a lot, I’ve been able to move on to an amazing new phase in my life. Having had a hysterectomy I felt my hopes of having a family had been taken away from me, but 6 months ago my dreams of becoming a mum were fulfilled when my partner and I adopted 2 beautiful children. I’m now living a busy but incredibly rewarding life – and one I simply couldn’t have imagined I’d have just a few years ago.“
Michelle herself was adopted and at the age of 32, Michelle was traced by an adoption society. They explained her birth mother had died of ovarian cancer and carried a variation of the BRCA gene, meaning Michelle was at high risk of developing cancer.
Michelle continues “This threat of cancer came as quite a shock and the news changed my life. I felt scared and vulnerable but started regular screening to make sure if I was going to get cancer, then it would be caught early. To be honest, I went a bit off the rails and partied hard – all I could think was I wasn’t going to make old bones.
In 2016, I developed a sharp pain in my breast, which I knew needed to be investigated, and subsequent tests and scans confirmed what I’d been dreading, it was breast cancer. Things seemed to happen very quickly, and I was soon on a treatment pathway of surgery and chemotherapy with the NHS. Even when my breast cancer treatment was completed, I remained distinctly aware I was still at high risk of ovarian cancer which felt like a constant cloud hanging over my life.
Then in 2018, I noticed a change in my digestion. I wasn’t able to eat more than a few mouthfuls of food yet had terrible bloating and constipation. Knowing my family history and having read about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, I immediately booked an appointment with my GP. After she assessed me, she suggested I use my private health insurance - because if it was ovarian cancer, which she was relatively certain it was, I’d have a long treatment pathway ahead of me and this would mean I’d be seen and treated quickly.
I was grateful to the NHS for my previous breast cancer care, but I just thought why not let someone else take that space, as I could access the latest treatment and care via my medical insurance. Accessing my insurance was easy, I made a call, and was given an authorisation number, it was really simple. My tests and scans then sadly confirmed what I’d feared, I did have ovarian cancer.
Thankfully, I started a treatment pathway of surgery within days of my diagnosis, followed by chemotherapy at GenesisCare. I remember walking into GenesisCare and thinking it didn’t feel like a hospital environment. It was an incredibly special place, which felt safe and calm, and where staff took time to get to know me – and my family members. My chemotherapy treatments were explained at a personal induction, and delivered in a private suite where my partner could join me.
I was pleasantly surprised to find complementary therapies available alongside my cancer treatment through Penny Brohn UK. I accessed counselling, reflexology and acupuncture, all included as part of my treatment at GenesisCare, which really helped to alleviate some of the side effects I was feeling. The counselling also really helped me overcome the physical and emotional impacts of my cancers. I remember being in the bath and not being able to look at the scars from the surgeries I’d had, the Penny Brohn team really helped me through this.
Now that I’m a mum, preventing any further risk of cancer returning has become more front of mind, so I’ve opted to have a mastectomy next year and was relieved to learn this would be covered under my private medical insurance.
I’m now at a place where I have decided to talk openly about my cancers and treatment, in a hope that I can make cancer a little less scary for me and for others. My plea to anyone with a cancer concern is, don’t die of fear and ignore it, be brave, pick up that phone, get it checked and if it is cancer, you’ll be wrapped in a big bubble of support and you will get through it.”