Forty-three year old Eimear Coffey had just finished breast-feeding her son when she noticed a lump in her left breast “At first, it was very small, I asked my GP about it and he said to keep an eye on it and if there were any changes, to come back. However then the lump became more prominent and I could feel it more lying in bed at night, I knew I had to go back to be seen again.”
Eimear’s GP referred her on to the Breast Clinic in St Vincent’s Hospital for a triple assessment on the 8th of October 2020.
Eimear recalls the morning before her appointment “I remember my breast check was on a sticky note filled with things I had to do that day, I never thought it would end up being a thing I had to do for the next year of my life.”
Eimear had a mammogram and an ultrasound while at the hospital “During the ultrasound, there were three doctors in the room. I could see them looking at each other and my chest began to tighten. They told me I needed a biopsy, that there was something there and it had to be tested. In hindsight, the doctors most likely knew then that it was cancer.
They also had to take a biopsy from my lymph nodes under my arm, I remember I was near tears and the nurse held my hand so tightly. This was during the height of the pandemic, so she wasn’t meant to be touching me at all. I always think about going back to say thank you to her.”
“For my results, my sister came with me. They brought us into this small pokey room and when they told me it was stage two breast cancer, I started to panic. We had our masks on and I felt like I couldn’t breathe so I asked to take it off. My sister had to speak for me and ask the questions. She was so strong, but I could see her eyes filled with tears, she was heartbroken.
They told me the whole treatment was going to take about a year, I just thought ‘I don’t have time for this’. As a mum, you instantly think of your children, those who are dependent on you.” Says the single mum of two.
Eimear was prescribed six rounds of TCH chemotherapy, a mastectomy of her left breast followed by reconstruction and 15 rounds of radiation. Eimear has also been given Herceptin infusions and will have ten years of Tamoxifen, which thankfully she has no side effects from.
Eimear found a way to keep her spirits up during treatment “Katy Perry’s song ‘Roar’ became my anthem. I would play it in the car with my dad on the way to my chemotherapy appointments.”
“Katy Perry’s song ‘Roar’ became my anthem. I would play it in the car with my dad on the way to my chemotherapy appointments."
Eimear’s treatment went incredibly well “I remember on the 21st of May 2021 sitting in the same room I was diagnosed in at the Hospital, my surgeon told me she was thrilled with my results. I told her I was going to go home to have a glass of champagne to celebrate, from that point on I psychologically felt stronger.”
Today Eimear is doing much better but says she still has her off days “Some days I am so positive, other days I am fearful. I sometimes feel I am on high alert, checking for lumps and bumps.”
Eimear started counselling after her fifth chemotherapy session at Arklow Cancer Support, which is supported by Irish Cancer Society funding. She feels “everybody should do it – it should be a compulsory part of cancer treatment.”
Reflecting on her experience, Eimear has learnt some lessons “I learnt more about myself, my strength and my own hidden gifts. I now prioritise my health and wellbeing. I meditate, exercise and have my affirmations – I never thought I had the time before cancer.
I would also tell people in a similar position to take the help –say yes please. Take the help with the kids, with the lifts, with the dinner. You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable and don’t try to superwoman.
It is also important to know that there is hope around cancer, there are many success stories. I now looking forward to my future and what is yet to come.”
Learn more about breast health and about how you can support breast cancer patients this October.
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