In March 2017, twenty-eight year old Leona Donovan had noticed abnormalities in her breast “I probably had cancer for some time before I was diagnosed. My nipple had become inverted and a lump had formed. When I looked online, I always focused on the points that said it wasn’t cancer. I was young, I hadn’t had kids, so I just thought that it couldn’t be cancer.”
Leona eventually booked in to see her GP after discussing her concerns with a friend and was referred on for a mammogram “I remember waiting to get my results, the consultant came out and asked had I someone to come in with me. I had brought my friend along and I knew we were about to be told I had cancer.”
Leona was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer and her treatment plan included chemotherapy, a mastectomy and radiation.
Leona recalls her reaction to her diagnosis “Deep down at that point I knew it was cancer. In ways, I was relieved to get treatment started and to do something about the symptoms. It would take about a year out of my life but I knew I was moving in the right direction. I don’t know what would have happened me if I left getting checked out any later.”
“I lost all my hair during the chemotherapy, which brought the whole reality of the diagnosis home. The colour was totally gone from my skin. Then eventually I lost my eyebrows and eyelashes which was difficult. I took part in the Look Good Feel Better programme, which was amazing. I was never very good at doing my make-up, I could draw one eyebrow great but could never get the other one looking the same!” Leona laughs.
Leona decided against having reconstructive surgery “I never felt like any less of a woman after my surgery. I am single and it has never hindered my dating life. I completely understand why some women feel differently however. I have begun experiencing menopausal symptoms and I don’t think I will ever be able to have children.
Fertility preservation was discussed when I was diagnosed but I had just come out of a ten year relationship and kids were the last thing on my mind. Sometimes I look at my friends with children and think I want kids, however this might be just because I know it will be more difficult for me to have my own.”
“Nothing is as scary as the ideas you create in your head.”
Leona is now thirty-four and went on to study horsemanship for two years and regained employment in the animal sector “In a strange way, cancer has brought many positives into my life. It changed many aspects of my life for the better. I began to focus on myself and getting better. Then when I did get better I just thought, I am going to do all those things that I always wanted to do.
I am working through my bucket list and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I appeared on Ireland's First Dates and I got a tattoo of the breast cancer ribbon under my eye. I also finally visited Old Trafford as I am a big Manchester United fan.”
Leona mentions something she has learnt from her cancer experience “Nothing is as scary as the ideas you create in your head. Don’t ignore any symptoms and let them develop. Get checked out and get checked out early.”
Contact the Irish Cancer Society Support Line
If you have worries or concerns about cancer, you can speak confidentially to an Irish Cancer Society Cancer Nurse through the Freephone Support Line on 1800 200 700.
Monday to Friday, 9.00am - 5.00pm
For more information
1800 200 700