Aoife’s story – ‘You can almost talk yourself out of getting checked’

When Aoife O’Brien began paying more attention to her own body to help with her running training, she could never have imagined it would lead her to make a life-changing discovery.

“I would never have been one to do self-exams on my breasts, even though I know I should have. I was doing a lot of running at the time and had been reading about how to tailor your training to your menstrual cycle, so I had been paying attention to my own symptoms,” recalls the mum-of-two from Kildare.

“I had some breast pain but I knew that was normal as part of my own cycle, however when it continued I knew it wasn’t normal and that drew my attention to it. Then when I looked at the skin I could see it had a bit of a ripple on it, and that was enough of a warning sign for me to know that something was wrong.

“I did sweat over it for a couple of weeks before seeing my GP last August as it was at the height of Covid. I was worrying that she wouldn’t have time to see me, or I would have to wait for an appointment for a long time.

“Then when I rang the GP the receptionist said I should definitely come in and that the GP would see me. I ended up being referred into the Mater and I asked would I have to wait a long time because of Covid.

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"I was immediately told that cases like mine are being prioritised so that was a relief.”

Aoife O'Brien

With her diagnosis of breast cancer soon confirmed, Aoife began chemotherapy in October 2020, followed by radiotherapy which she completed in June of this year. She also received Herceptin and had her final course of treatment on the important milestone of 24 September – exactly one year after her original diagnosis.

Aoife received help in getting to her appointments in the Mater Hospital through the Irish Cancer Society Volunteer Driver Service, which was an invaluable assistance to her.

“I used the Volunteer Driver Service, and it was a huge god-send as because of Covid I had to go to all my appointments by myself, and with two young children I had no-one to mind them and my husband couldn’t drive me into my appointments. I live in Kildare, and I was having chemotherapy in the Mater, and I wouldn’t have been able to drive myself home after my treatment.

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“The Volunteer Driver Service was brilliant and I would have been lost without it."

Aoife O'Brien
Aoife O'Brien

Aoife is now slowly trying to get back into the swing of her normal routine, including her beloved running, and she has the following advice for other women:

“Trust your instincts. In my head I kept telling myself that it’s probably nothing, and you can almost talk yourself out of getting it checked but it’s better to have the doctor go and tell you it’s nothing than deciding for yourself.

“The one thing that helped me was the fact that I was paying attention to my own symptoms, and what I knew was normal for me in my regular cycle, so I think that really helped me to make sure it was picked up early.

“If you have any worries you’ll always be taken seriously so it’s important to have the courage to go and be checked out. I feel very lucky that it was caught early and I had the best of care.”

Care For Your Pair

Learn more about breast health and about how you can support breast cancer patients this October.

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