Care For Your Pair - Denise's story
'I thought my world was ending. I asked, why me? My first thoughts were about my four young children and my husband.'
Denise Kennerney from Dunboyne in Co. Meath was diagnosed with stage 3 invasive ductal breast cancer in March 2020, aged 39. The mother-of-four had noticed a lump in her breast at the end of January 2020, but admittedly ignored it, assuming it was a cyst. She and her husband Kieran had planned a family holiday to Lanzarote with their children (aged 12, 10, 8 and 2) so she put it to the back of her mind until she returned.
On 29 February she attended her GP, who referred her for an urgent triple assessment at the Mater Hospital. She had a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy. Her consultant told her that he didn’t need the lab results to know that there were two or three areas of concern on her scan. Denise was absolutely devastated and spent the following week-and-a-half anxiously awaiting her lab results.
10 days later, she received her lab results and was told that there were two tumours in her left breast. Denise describes receiving a stage 2 breast cancer diagnosis as “absolutely heart-breaking."
On 9 April 2020, Denise had her left breast removed. Unfortunately, the doctors then discovered that her cancer had progressed to stage 3 and had travelled to her lymph nodes. A few weeks later, she had further surgery to remove all of the lymph nodes on her left side.
Denise says the hardest part about going through cancer during the coronavirus pandemic was the lack of social interaction and doing everything alone. She explains, “I found it very hard in lockdown. My husband came with me for my first appointment, but apart from that I’ve attended every appointment alone. Even after my surgeries, I woke up alone, with no one by my side. It is very upsetting. I also I had to tell my sisters I had breast cancer over the phone, which was very tough. I couldn’t hug my mother, sisters or best friends throughout. Those things we take for granted."
Denise has been overwhelmed by the generosity of friends, family, neighbours and her entire community throughout her cancer experience. She mentions how so many people would drop by to chat through her window, leave meals or offer support.
She particularly praises her brother Edward, who has been an immense support to her since she was diagnosed. “When everything happened, my brother was incredible. He’s just been amazing. He came up most days and cooked dinners for the children, and brought me to and from most of my appointments so Kieran could stay at home with the children. He’s been absolutely fantastic”.
After surgery, Denise underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy lasting 4.5 months, followed by three weeks of daily radiotherapy in October, which she describes as “extremely tough." She lost her hair, eyelashes and eyebrows during chemotherapy and found the radiation very upsetting.
Denise's doctors are very pleased with her progress and she is recovering well, whilst she awaits an appointment for breast reconstruction in the coming months.
During treatment, Denise availed of the Irish Cancer Society’s Volunteer Driver Service, which she describes as invaluable:
“The volunteer service really took the pressure off us as a family. My brother would take me to get my bloods done and a Volunteer Driver brought me to my chemotherapy appointments, thus allowing Kieran be at home for the children. Without this invaluable service, I don’t know how we would have managed all my appointments. My brother and husband both work full time and with lockdown and Covid-19, there weren’t many options. I am so very grateful to all of the drivers who I came into contact with and really appreciate all that they do. They are an invaluable part of the Irish Cancer Society."
Learn more about breast health and about how you can support breast cancer patients this October.
For more information
1800 200 700