Breast cancer: Anna’s story

22 February 2019 . United Kingdom

The first time Anna, 62, investigated her symptoms she looked online and the results suggested breast cancer. Anna knew she needed to talk to a health professional fast, but struggled to book a GP appointment at her local practice. Rather than wait to see a GP, she used her Bupa health insurance to call Bupa UK’s Cancer Direct Access team straight away. Here she shares her experience of breast cancer from diagnosis through to treatment and finally recovery.

“When I noticed a change in my breasts and nipple discharge, my initial reaction was to search on Google for what it could mean. Everything I read online suggested breast cancer, sending me into a panic.

I tried to make an appointment with my GP, but was told the first available appointment was in two weeks. I knew I couldn’t wait that long, so I called Bupa’s Cancer Direct Access service. I explained my symptoms and was immediately referred to a consultant and booked an appointment for five days later.

The tests then kicked off and were very thorough which was massively reassuring. Following an examination by the consultant, a mammogram, ultrasound and a biopsy all in one day – I was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. Deep down, I think I knew something was wrong from the beginning.

I was signed off from work so that I could attend the various scans, x-rays and necessary appointments. My mind was wandering all over the place and I couldn’t seem to concentrate on anything. I was initially overwhelmed with all the different appointments that I had to attend. But one day I sat down and decided to take charge. I bought a separate calendar and wrote all my appointments onto it. It was then that I decided to take things day-by-day. It meant all I had to do was look at the calendar and I knew what I was doing daily. It really helped me to regain my life and not let cancer take over.

Four weeks after the mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, I was recovering at home with my husband and our lovely dog. I’m very lucky that I have a very supportive husband, and he helped me to have a positive attitude from the beginning. It was difficult at first to stay positive. I felt angry, and had questions like ‘why me?’. But trying to keep a positive attitude (which is not necessarily easy) stopped me from feeling sorry for myself and it helped me to cope with everything that was happening.

I had problems after the mastectomy, with a build up of fluid. This was removed at the hospital when necessary, and it’s still causing some problems; my specialist is keeping an eye on it. I now have to take hormone tablets for 10 years. This in the beginning was like going through the menopause again. Things have settled slightly now. I also have to have a Bisphosphonate intravenous infusion in the arm (there are other names for it as well) every six months for three years. This is part of the ongoing treatment to keep the cancer at bay and in case of any stray cancer cells left behind.

Looking at the whole experience, although it was awful, Bupa staff were very helpful, informative, friendly and patient with me. When I felt overwhelmed with information overload, I rang Bupa and they answered any questions that I had. They explained things in a very clear and easy to understand way. This actually had a very calming effect on me. It was good to know that such a helpful and informative team were only a phone call away, when needed. Bupa helped me a lot on my cancer journey and treated me with consideration and patience.

Everybody’s experience of cancer is different. You never know how you will react or cope until it happens to you. My advice to anyone diagnosed with cancer, would be to take somebody with you to appointments with the specialist, as they can take in more information than you will.

I had a phased return to work six months after the operation and treatment. I was lucky my company were very considerate all the way through from the cancer being diagnosed. Now, I’m just very happy to be around and to be able to enjoy life.”