Rachel & Ziya

We are so thankful to have forty-nine year old Rachel Akkoç and her sixteen-year-old son Ziya from Co Donegal feature in our Daffodil Day 2022 advert this year.

Rachel shares her own cancer story here.

She says, “It was November of 2018, I had been experiencing intermittent breast pain for about two years prior to this and the doctors had always told me this was nothing to be concerned about.

"As the pain got progressively worse, I trusted my gut and went to my GP. She discovered a lump in my left arm pit and I was referred to my local breast clinic. On the day of my appointment at the clinic I was told that I had breast cancer, they felt they didn’t need to wait for the biopsy results to tell me. I later learnt that the cancer had also spread to my lymph nodes.

"I remember that day well as it was the day Storm Diane hit the country. I will never forget walking to my car alone, with the wind and the rain hitting me and feeling so numb and in shock from what I had just been told.”

Rachel began chemotherapy but only managed two sessions initially, as she was hospitalised after both and experienced problems with drug intolerances and other pre-existing medical conditions, leaving her faced with the difficult decision as to whether to continue treatment or not. She opted to move straight to surgery. Following surgery, she was referred back for more chemotherapy using a different drug combination, but didn’t manage to complete the recommended course, again due to side effects. She then went on to receive radiation, and antibody treatment injections. She will also be on Tamoxifen for ten years.

For support during her diagnosis and treatment, Rachel used a number of Irish Cancer Society support services including the counselling service and the Daffodil Centre.

“When I was first diagnosed, it triggered an episode of depression and anxiety. I was very fortunate however, as I was pointed in the direction of the Irish Cancer Society’s free counselling service, which I availed of.

"From that, I was also referred to the Daffodil Centre in my local hospital, which I hadn’t actually heard of before. My husband and I went in there and spoke with a lovely nurse who offered us advice and support on the many aspects of a cancer diagnosis, from the financial impact, to how to tell your children about your diagnosis.

"The nurse also referred me on to a course called ‘Look Good, Feel Better’ which works to boost your self-esteem while going through cancer treatment. I found that incredibly helpful.”

Rachel says her cancer diagnosis was very hard on her family and that her two sons basically had to cope without their mother for a year and a half. “I was physically and mentally unable to be present as a mother, or indeed as a person throughout my treatment, which was very upsetting and had a huge impact on us.”

On learning of his mother’s diagnosis, Rachel’s son Ziya says, “I was in first year of secondary school and it was all such a massive shock, it hit me so hard and put a dent in my life. I had never dealt with something so difficult before.”

On sharing her story as part of the advert, Rachel says “We are delighted as a family to be given the opportunity to share our story. The filming has allowed us to tell our truth about our cancer experience. Our experience was often very difficult, but in many ways, being a part of this advert has brought a sense of closure. I'm a big believer in making positive opportunities come from something bad like cancer.”

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