In January 2021, then 36-year-old Gabrielle McGovern from Celbridge, Co Kildare was breast feeding her youngest son when she noticed something wasn’t quite normal with her breast.
“My breast felt quite swollen, red and hot. I thought perhaps I had developed mastitis so I rang my GP. Covid cases were quite bad at the time so I had a phone consultation and he prescribed me antibiotics, unfortunately after I finished the course there was no improvement.
I then called my GP again and this time I was brought into the clinic. They were worried there could be an infection so I was sent to A&E. Once at the hospital, I was admitted and given IV antibiotics.” Says the mum-of-two.
The Hospital then went on to conduct an ultrasound and a biopsy, they asked Gabrielle to come back a week later with her husband Jason for her results.
“I thought all the tests were just precautions, when we went back in and they told me I had triple negative breast cancer, I was in total disbelief. I was in a daze and couldn’t take in all the words they were saying to me. On the way to the appointment in the car I had heard that it was World Cancer Day, now here I was, diagnosed with cancer.” She recalls.
The consultants ordered more biopsies, a CT scan, a PET scan and a mammogram and told Gabrielle her treatment plan would include AC and Taxol chemotherapy, a mastectomy and then radiation.
“My mother had died of ovarian cancer in 2018 so they also wanted to conduct genetic testing, the results came back to show I was BRCA1 positive. Due to the diagnosis, the surgeon recommended I eventually go for a double mastectomy but that for now I could proceed with a double or a single, so I decided to opt for the single to begin with.”
In September 2021 just as Gabrielle was about to begin radiation she was called back into the hospital for another PET scan.
“They called me in and told me that unfortunately the scan had showed a local re-occurrence and that the cancer had spread. My cancer was now treatable not curable and my life expectancy was significantly reduced.
They were the only words I can remember from the appointment. I was in such disbelief I think I told them ‘it is what it is.’ However as soon as I got into the car I bawled crying, I was so angry, I thought ‘why did it have to happen to me’? I have two small kids –five and two, I wondered how long would I have with them?”
Gabrielle’s consultants decided to pause her radiation and to proceed immediately with more chemotherapy – both oral and IV chemotherapy.
“I have mixed results with the treatments, some of the tumours would grow while others would shrink in size. I have been on CAPE chemotherapy for the last number of weeks, I will be rescanned again and will just have to see how this treatment works for me.
"I try to live my life month to month and make the most of my time. I called into the Daffodil Centre in the hospital and spoke with a nurse on how to tell my children about my diagnosis. She gave me a booklet which I found really helpful."
I am also aware that my kids won’t remember everything so I am trying to capture lots of videos and photos of everything. We took the kids to Disney when I got my metastatic cancer diagnosis, which was a really wonderful and special trip.”
On advice she would give to others going through their own cancer experience she says “If there's something you'd like to do, or buy, or say or experience, just do it!
"YOLO!" is my new mantra and I've gone swimming with sharks, booked lots of breaks and made great memories because of it!"
Gabrielle is delighted to be supporting the Irish Cancer Society's Care For Your Pair campaign for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. To learn more about the campaign, visit: cancer.ie/careforyourpair #CareForYourPair
Care For Your Pair
This October, the Irish Cancer Society are encouraging you to ‘Care For Your Pair’, by being breast aware. Being breast aware means knowing what is normal for you, so that if any unusual change occurs in or around your breasts, you will recognise it. Take time today to check your breasts, and encourage others to do the same.
Find out more at: Cancer.ie/CareForYourPair