43 year old, Mags Collins from Athlone was lying in bed unable to sleep one night when she noticed a very slight swelling in one of her breasts.
“It was so slight I thought I must be imagining it. I could only feel it when I lay on my side in a certain way. In the morning when I examined my breasts in the mirror I couldn’t even notice it. I asked my partner to take a look and he thought it was nothing, but suggested I visit my GP for peace of mind. She wasn’t overly concerned but referred me for a triple assessment to be sure.”
After her triple assessment, Mags was told that there was a possibility she had breast cancer, but they would confirm this when lab results came back in a couple of weeks’ time. 10 days later, Mags received the dreaded news that she had stage 3 breast cancer.
“I had a gut feeling that something wasn’t right, and when they called me and confirmed it was cancer, you just never expect it. I was in pure shock. My first thoughts were, how will I tell my family? How can I put them through all of this?”
Mags’ treatment included a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
“I started chemo on the day of my Mother’s birthday, and finished up just two days before Christmas. My chemo wasn’t too bad, it was the fear of the unknown as you have nothing to compare it to, but I was very lucky. What really knocked for me six were the injections I received to boost my bone marrow- they were hard, but thankfully, they gave me medication to combat the pain, which really helped”.
During Mags’ treatment, she also discovered a change in a freckle on her leg. She visited a dermatologist who determined it was skin cancer, thankfully they removed the melanoma and no further treatment was required. With two cancer diagnoses in one year, Mags is a huge advocate for self-checking and knowing what’s normal for your body.
“I am huge advocate for checking your body and my story just goes to show the importance of getting yourself checked early on, if you find anything you’re worried about at all, go to your doctor”.
Mags’ treatment has now finished and she is doing well. She hopes to undergo breast reconstruction at the end of this year and has recently started a new job as a receptionist in a local hotel.
Since her treatment ended, Mags has been speaking to an Irish Cancer Society counsellor every two weeks, a resource she believes is ‘invaluable’.
“The emotional impact hit me like a ton of bricks after the treatment, but then I felt ungrateful for feeling that way. Every time I spoke to Mary the counsellor she reassured me, that I wasn’t alone in feeling this way."
“It’s been so fantastic to have the free counselling and support. I was so positive during the whole diagnosis, focusing on the treatment and working to get through it, and then the realisation of what’s happened hits you and your brain processing it all, you can’t really do that when you are going through the treatment. The emotional impact hit me like a ton of bricks after the treatment, but then I felt ungrateful for feeling that way. Every time I spoke to Mary the counsellor she reassured me, that I wasn’t alone in feeling this way.”
Mags is delighted to be supporting the Irish Cancer Society’s Care for your Pair campaign this October.
“I urge everyone to be breast aware. Look at me, I found a tiny swelling-I wasn’t even sure it was there, but it turns out that 60% of my breast tissue was cancerous. If I hadn’t done anything about it, where would I be now? It is so so important to go get check out as quickly as you can.”
Learn more about breast health and about how you can support breast cancer patients this October.
For more information
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