In November 2022, 44-year-old Sarah Brady from Co Kildare was sitting at home watching TV when she felt an itch on her left breast.
“I put my hand down to scratch it and felt a pea sized hard lump. I thought it was strange, but said I would keep an eye on it. As the days went by however, it didn’t go away and it didn’t change. So a few weeks later, I decided to go to my GP and get it checked out. My GP thought it was a cyst but sent me for a mammogram to be safe.
“After the mammogram appointment, the doctor said she thought it was also a cyst but that they would wait for the results. I remember her saying ‘if you don’t hear anything from us, don’t be worrying. If we see something, we will go back to you sooner’”
“I remember not long after, I got a phone call saying I was needed back in on Monday for an ultrasound, it was the Friday before Christmas.
“They kept going back and forth between my breasts, checking both closely. They said that there was a cyst on the left breast but then they kept looking at the right breast. I thought this was strange, my right breast wasn’t the problem. A consultant was then called in. The consultant then also zoned in on my right breast.
“The consultant said he wasn’t happy and was going to do a biopsy straight away.”
"Then the tears fell, tears of relief, joy and guilt. I couldn't help thinking about all the ladies who were not as lucky as me"
“I had to wait until the first week of January for my results, which made Christmas difficult, I tried my best not to think about it.
“Then on the 3rd of January, I walked into the hospital room and was met with a surgeon and a nurse. When I saw the nurse, I knew it wasn’t good news. I was given a diagnosis of Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) - an early form of breast cancer.”
“I had never heard of DCIS, I looked online and I was so upset because I saw some websites saying DCIS wasn’t cancer. I went back to my surgeon and he said ‘it is cancer, it’s a non-invasive cancer. However if it's left untreated it may become invasive cancer’"
“I held off telling my family as a number of tests and scans still needed to be completed. I wanted to know my next steps and more detail of my diagnosis before I let them know.
“In March, I got the recommendation of a single mastectomy with DIEP reconstruction. They also wanted to remove some of my lymph nodes to check it hadn’t spread, thankfully my lymph nodes were all clear.”
“I had to postpone my mastectomy in early May as I contracted Covid, but they were able to fit me in at the end of May. The surgery went smoothly, spending around 6 days in hospital.”
“Two weeks later I was called back in. The nurse turned to me and said ‘The good news is, we got it all out, you have clear margins, and you are in the clear.’ I was in total shock.
“I asked the nurse – do I need to take medication? Radiation? Chemo? She replied no. It didn’t register with me, it took a while to sink in. I went for a cup of tea and sat there thinking, how am I so blessed, how did I get so lucky? Then the tears fell, tears of relief, joy and guilt. I couldn't help thinking about all the ladies who were not as lucky as me"
Sarah says she is healing well following her surgery, her last phase of surgery will be in November. She says she has found great solace in online support groups, one for DIEP surgery and another for DCIS.
“I decided to document my experience on my Instagram ‘dear.cancer.im.stronger’ to help others newly diagnosed with DCIS.”
On advice she would give to others, Sarah says “Early detection is key. Don’t ignore any lump, bump or change. The lump on my left breast ended up being a harmless cyst. I went to get it checked out and because I did they discovered the cancer in my right breast. I had no other symptoms showing in my right breast. It’s so important to be aware of your own body. Don't be afraid to get any changes with your breasts checked out.”
For more information on DCIS, please visit: https://www.cancer.ie/cancer-information-and-support/cancer-types/breas…