- Women's Health
My friend had Breast Cancer
A Breast self-examination and facing Breast Cancer
A few months ago, a friend of mine who I lovingly call my sister sinister sent me an email telling me that she was going to have a breast check up because during a breast self-examination she had found a lump on her breast. We were both very positive about the results of the tests, we even joked that nothing wrong could happen to “Mistress Joanna”, as those who know my friend call her. However, a few days later when she told me that she had to go for further tests I started worrying and despite all our positive thinking Joanna’s fears materialized a few days later when the doctor told her she had breast cancer.
As soon as I received her message with the news, I called her. Not knowing really what to say but to cheer her up and wish her all the best on her upcoming treatment. Joanna took the news rather well. I am convinced that one of the reasons why she is getting well so soon is because she is mentally a very strong person and has managed to keep positive all along. Her treatment started really fast and in no time at all she was booked for surgery. During all that time Joanna never stopped being optimistic. Before the news of her breast cancer we had planned for weeks to go to a boat party and other events in London and despite her imminent surgery her plans never changed. She was determined to continue living as normal as possible. The surgeon told her that they would do as much as possible to save her breast, but no one was really sure about the extent of her surgery.
Surgery for breast cancer
The week her surgery was supposed to take place, Joanna was hit with more devastating news. During the pre-surgical tests the doctors had found another lump on her other breast. Her surgery had to be delayed for a few days until further testing.
Things were going really fast, maybe too fast to take full conscience of what was happening to her body. During all that time we just kept planning our London outings, on what we were going to wear for the boat party, what would be the most appropriate thing to wear to the Pony party at Kent, who was going to drive us there and all that. She was convinced that even a week after her breast surgery she would be able to come to all the parties without having to alter her schedule. Finally, better news came to her as the doctors found that the second lump on her breast was not cancer and they would only need to operate on her right breast.
A day after her surgery I arrived to see Joanna in her home. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was expecting to find her lying in bed, all pale and half sleep. Instead, Joanna opened the door for me and received me with a bright smile! She looked so good, as if nothing had happened to her. I was happy and surprised to see her so well. After we sat in the kitchen to have a cup of tea she unzipped her sweatshirt and showed me her breast. She was still slightly swollen and bruised but as always very positive about the outcome of the surgery. She continued doing everything by herself as usual; I even had to stop her from cooking dinner that night! But despite her bright face and “Amazon attitude” Joanna was feeling very tired and decided not to come to the parties the following day.
A love cure
A few weeks after her breast surgery Joanna went for what she called a “Love cure” meaning going back to her home country for the summer holidays and being pampered by her family. It was only when she arrived in Poland that she told her family what she had been through. Before that she had kept her cancer secret from her family. I believe that it was her family’s love, care and support that helped Joanna get over her cancer. There is nothing better to make everything feel right than home made chicken soup and a big cuddle from mom!
Radiation therapy for breast cancer
On her return to London Joanna started radiotherapy; a cancer treatment using radiation to lower the risk of the cancer coming back. The radiation therapy has some side effects such as short-term fatigue and short-term skin damage. To help relief the side effects of her radiotherapy cancer treatment Joanna is following a special diet given to her at the hospital. The diet aims to maintain her taking in enough calories to keep her strength and help the radiation treatment, while protecting her body from the damage caused by the radiotherapy. She is focusing on getting a well-balanced, healthy diet from natural sources, including fruits and vegetables. She knows her body is under stress from the treatment and her diet emphasizes strengthening of the immune system. She realised that the immune system is the most important part of your organism to prevent and help fighting any cancer, so she makes sure it’s super powered now and in the best condition.
Breast Cancer Prevention Diet and fitness
Eating a healthy diet to help your body fight cancer
Some of the foods that Joanna was advised to take during her radiotherapy treatment are:
- Eggs and nuts as they are a good source of B-complex vitamins, vitamin E, and protein.
- Fibre from wheat bran and cereals
- Peanut butter, which she takes every morning in a smoothie!
- Beans and other legumes which offer plenty of B vitamins while helping meet your protein needs as well.
- Green, leafy vegetables, as they are a good source of vitamins and minerals.
The Haven Supported Joanna through her Breast Cancer experience
- The Haven | Breast Cancer Support Centres
The Haven provides, completely free of charge, a wide range of therapies which help people to deal with the physical and emotional side effects of breast cancer. Specialist nurses and experts in nutrition, exercise and emotional support provide...
Recovering from Breast Cancer
A couple of weeks ago I went to spend a weekend with Joanna. This time like the previous one, as soon as we sat for a cup of tea she unzipped her sweatshirt to show me her breast. Her scar looked much better and lighter; the bruise had gone but because of the radiotherapy the skin around her breast was reddish, as if it had been sunburnt. Nonetheless Joanna, as always, was radiant and positive. This time she was strong enough to come to some of the parties, we had planned to go to, although she had to make slight changes to her wardrobe. In the meantime all her leather and latex costumes were set aside to favour natural fibres like cotton and loose clothing around her breast.
Joanna's project to support Breast Cancer awareness
Joanna has almost finished radiotherapy now. She has won her battle against cancer. Out of her battle she has come stronger, more mature and with plenty of positive changes in her life. She is planning now on writing an article in Polish for a magazine aimed at Polish women living in the UK. She wants to share her story and tell women who are living in the UK but who do not yet speak English, about the importance of breast self examinations and about the services available for women who are worried about having breast cancer. Joanna is making cancer prevention among younger Polish women living in London her next task, her contribution to other women who like her can be cured when treated in time.
As for me, visiting Joanna filled me with hope. Hope in the UK health system which managed to spot her cancer and treat it in time, hope that even in the darker moments love can keep you going, and hope that women can still win the battle against Breast Cancer.