On the morning of Aug 25th 2020, Siobhan Marsh was lying in bed and noticed a lump on her right breast. She made an appointment with her GP, who referred her for a triple assessment the following week.
She recalls hearing the words ‘you have breast cancer’ and admits that although she hadn’t expected her prognosis to be positive, she felt complete shock and also a sense of relief.
“I actually felt a bit of relief, it might sound odd, but the not knowing what it was, was harder. I felt positive having a treatment plan in place," she said.
Siobhan’s cancer had spread to her lymph glands, so she underwent a lumpectomy, lymph removal and chemotherapy, which finished recently.
Receiving a cancer diagnosis at any time is incredibly tough, but for Siobhán there were many additional worries. Covid-19 restrictions meant that she had to tell many friends and family members about her diagnosis over the phone. She found it particularly tough to deliver the news to her 81 year old father, who lives alone in Kerry and said:
“I would have liked for Dad to see me. I felt for him, I can’t imagine how hard it would be to hear that alone, out of the blue. Giving him that news and not being there to reassure him, for him to see I’m ok. I found that very hard."
Home schooling her two young children aged 8 and 10 throughout her diagnosis has added additional anxieties to herself and her husband Gregg, who have also moved their gym business online during lockdowns.
However, Siobhán is ever the optimist and says that the upside of going though cancer during Covid-19 is that she hasn’t missed out on any big events during her illness!
She said, “I tend to look for the positive in things and I’ve been fortunate that overall I have been doing well. My treatment hasn’t been too debilitating and in general I have found my experience quite positive."
Siobhán will begin her radiotherapy in March 2021 and is currently focusing looking after her young family, and recovering physically by going for daily walks. She believes she is fortunate to feel so positive and mentally strong, but knows that in future she may benefit from speaking to a counsellor about her experience.
She plans to reach out to the Irish Cancer Society Support Line in the coming months.
Siobhan is hopeful that by sharing her story she will encourage others to prioritise their health. She said, "The Irish Cancer Society's campaign raising awareness of what it's like to live with a cancer diagnosis is key. I'm hoping that by telling my story other people reading this, who are maybe recently diagnosed will get some positivity and the message that it can be ok.
"I also hope that by reading this others will bravely decide to prioritise their health and get that overdue check-up," she said.
The Irish Cancer Society Support Line is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm for support and advice on any cancer related issue.