'When you are told you could have been looking at two years to live, it’s not something you expect to hear in your twenties, especially when you are feeling fine.'
Rachael-Ann Mc Carney from Co Cavan was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer just one month before her 28th birthday.
In August 2020, Rachael-Ann discovered a lump in her breast. “I was scared initially to get checked out because I didn’t want any negative news to come back and impact my life.” When the lump started to get bigger, Rachael-Ann booked in with her GP in mid-October. He referred her urgently to a local hospital and she was put on a waiting list.
“My body was trying to tell me something. I felt I needed to trust my gut, I knew I needed to push to be seen, as something just didn’t feel right,” the 28-year-old primary teacher notes.
Rachael-Ann then booked herself in to the Beacon Hospital and was fast-tracked to Beaumont Hospital where she was booked in for an MRI, ultrasound and biopsy. When her results came back, Rachael-Ann was told that she had triple negative breast cancer. Overall, there were four cancerous tumours in Rachael-Ann’s breast but luckily there was only sign of disease in one of her lymph nodes.
What shocked Rachael-Ann the most was that she didn’t look or feel in any way unwell. “I had no other symptoms besides the lump. In my opinion, I was the fittest I had ever been,” she recalls.
Rachael-Ann recounts all the decisions she suddenly had to make: “I remember receiving a phone call before my surgery where the nurse asked me had I thought about saving my nipple areola complex. This decision in particular made me laugh. I never in my life thought that I’d have to even consider a decision like this in my twenties. I usually can’t even decide what I want for lunch.”
Rachael-Ann’s treatment included a double mastectomy, reconstruction, axillary clearance on the left side and fertility treatment. She was then prescribed 16 rounds of ACT chemotherapy as a preventive measure. She hopes to begin radiotherapy in December.
“When I woke up from my surgery, I was afraid to look under the post-op bra. When I eventually plucked up the courage to have a look, I was pleasantly surprised. They were definitely a lot nicer than my old ones!”
Before her surgery, Rachael-Ann visited the Daffodil Centre in Beaumont Hospital.
“The nurse was so positive. It was nice to speak to someone who wasn’t your own family or friends. I remember she said something and it really stuck with me. ‘It’s like we are all stuck in traffic on the M50. Everyone else is going straight ahead. You are taking an exit for a little while, a different route, but you will come back on. You will get your life back and you will be a new and improved version of yourself.’ I thought that was just such a lovely way to put it.”
Learn more about breast health and about how you can support breast cancer patients this October.
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