Care For Your Pair - Claire's story

'It is so important to have hope. Hope that you are going to get through it and you are going to be okay.'

Claire Brangan from Swords, Co Dublin was 39-years-old with two children under the age of 4 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I found the lump and I went straight to my GP. It was very small, sometimes I couldn’t even find it again when I went looking for it. They told me it was most likely a cyst and nothing sinister and to come back to them again in a month if there are any changes. I had just started a new job and we had built a new house so I ended up delaying it and going back after two. They examined it again and referred me to the Beaumont Breast Centre,” Claire states.

Claire had the triple assessment check at the clinic - a mammogram, ultrasound and a biopsy. On the 26 March 2019, Claire was diagnosed with breast cancer.

On being told the news of her cancer, Claire recalls, “Initially, I wanted to believe it was a cyst and nothing more serious. I didn’t meet any of the criteria for breast cancer – I was fit and it didn’t run in my family. No one in my family had been treated for any type of cancer. However, when they actually told me, I wasn’t surprised. I was almost certain after the tests in the clinic."

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“Of course, it’s still a shock to hear the actual words being said. You don’t expect yourself to ever hear those words. It’s mind-blowing, almost an out of body experience.”

Claire Brangan

Claire’s treatment included a mastectomy, five months of chemotherapy and one month of radiation. Claire is currently undergoing hormone therapy and taking tamoxifen. She notes that she is also experiencing symptoms of medical menopause.

Claire acknowledges that she was nervous to first begin treatment but this quickly changed:

“I’m not sure what exactly I thought a chemotherapy ward would look like or be, but it wasn’t a frightening experience. I found it quite comforting and reassuring. I found a positive mental attitude made it easier, because your physical body is not what it used to be. Being around people who understood what you were going through. The nurses, they could advise on every ache, pain or side effect you might have. They checked my bloods, gave me updates on how I was doing and I could knock off the chemo treatments on my list. They also gave me lots of leaflets from the Irish Cancer Society, which were very informative.

"The Daffodil Centre referred me on to the Look Good Feel Better workshop that was a really great experience. I always encourage anyone else who is going through treatment to sign up. It is a lovely way to meet other women who are going through the same thing as you."

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"I turned 40-years-old in October 2019 and the day before my birthday, I finished my chemotherapy. I then finished radiation on 25 December 2019. It felt good to start the New Year with all the big scary treatment behind me.”

Claire Brangan
Claire Brangan

Claire mentions something she found helped her greatly: “I am quite a private person, but when I got diagnosed, I decided to tell everyone I knew on Instagram that I had cancer. I found anytime I went anywhere and bumped into someone I knew, I would have to tell them the story. I found that very upsetting and difficult, for both me and them. Eventually it was very rare that I met someone who didn’t already know that I had cancer. It really made life easier for me.”

Claire is back to her work exactly one year later and is absolutely thrilled: “It was another step down this journey of recovery. Work was just normal life to me, it was a really big deal. When you are used to working full time, to be off work for a whole year is very, very strange.

"I had my last appointment with my oncologist about six weeks ago. I am signed off now. I get an annual mammogram and a check with the breast clinic. I also go to a menopause clinic to manage the symptoms.

“In terms of any advice I would give from my own journey, I would say to people to just keep an eye on your body. Looking back, there were signs I wasn’t well before I got diagnosed. I wasn’t feeling quite right, I had lost weight but I wasn’t eating any differently. If you are unsure of something, just get it checked and be persistent.

"Finally of course, it is so important to have hope. Hope that you are going to get through it and you are going to be okay.”

Care For Your Pair

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

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