Ciara Brickley (39) from Cork was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 32.
‘’I was living in the US, working for my current employer, when I discovered a lump in my right breast. I thought I had done something in the gym. I called to the clinic here in the US, they said that it was probably related to my menstrual cycle and told me to wait a month and come back.’’
Ciara was coming home to Ireland for Christmas so she visited her GP in Cork who did an exam and scheduled her in for an emergency hospital appointment the next morning.
She had a biopsy, and on the January 9 2015, Ciara was diagnosed with breast cancer.
‘’The next day my Mam and I flew back to America to pick up my dog and pack up my life in the US. It was important for me to be at home and have support around me. I also believed in the system that we have in Ireland. I came home and within a few days, I went to see a fertility consultant to discuss my options. Two days later, I had my surgery – a wide excision lumpectomy.’’
Ciara started chemotherapy 4 weeks later. After Ciara’s first chemo session, she went to Dublin with her parents to celebrate her brother’s 30th.
‘’That was the last time that I felt someway ok. From that point, it went a little bit downhill. My best Friend was getting married after my third chemo session. I had bought the outfit and everything to go. However I developed chemo induced colitis. I lost stone and a half in about a week. Of course I didn’t make it to the wedding, but my friends sent me videos throughout the day," she said.
Ciara had a lot of difficult side effects with her treatment.
"I decided to shave my head before my hair fell out - that was quite tough. My nails went black and my toenails fell out. I had a lot of numbness in my feet and hands. I had allergic reaction to that chemo, but I stuck with it and got it done," she said.
‘’Towards the end of that chemo I was feeling really sick and they were talking about giving me a transfusion. I had to go to CUH to get mapped for radiotherapy. When I was there, one of the nurses was concerned at how pale I was.
"I went home and my temperature spiked. I went downhill very quickly. I rang the hospital and they said to come in straight away. They were worried that it had spread. Thankfully it was a bad dose from pneumonia and nothing more sinister.’’
Ciara took part in a global clinical trial that was looking at seeing if Herceptin had any benefits to breast cancer patients who weren’t Her-2 positive.
"I knew going in that it might not benefit me, but would benefit women in the future," she said. Ciara finished her treatment and started Radiotherapy.
Ciara found it extremely difficult getting back to normal life after cancer. ‘’My oncologist recommended CBT, which I did for about a year. It gave me some of the tools to manage stress and anxiety," she said.
Mental health is so important, I recognised my body was a machine, but my mind needed more. You can’t just bounce back after cancer.’’
Ciara stresses the importance of early detection and getting yourself checked if you feel that something isn’t right.
"Early detection is so important. The doctors believed that my tumour was growing 18 months before I could feel it," she said.
Ciara’s parents visited the Daffodil Centre in the Bons Secours Cork and her Mum collects for Daffodil Day every year.
The Irish Cancer Society Support Line is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm for support and advice on any cancer related issue.