At the start of 2020, forty-nine year old Monaghan local Bernie Sherry noticed she wasn’t feeling herself “I was experiencing extreme fatigue. I remember falling over on the sofa every evening, absolutely exhausted. At the time, I thought this might be something to do with the menopause.”
However, not long after this Bernie observed an indentation on her right breast. Initially, Bernie put off getting herself checked out, hoping the indentation would go away on its own.
By March time, Bernie decided to contact her GP “It was around St Patrick’s Day 2020, COVID was just ramping up. I tried calling my local surgery but I couldn’t get through to their phone line. I was so worried at this point, I decided to phone the office of a consultant I had attended in the past.
It wasn’t really his area of specialty, but I told him I really wanted to put my mind at ease.
He examined me and straight away, he knew something wasn’t right. He referred me on for a triple assessment in Dublin.”
Not long after her appointment in Dublin, Bernie was called back for her results and told that she had breast cancer.
“As I had not turned fifty yet, I had not been sent for a mammogram but cancer doesn’t care. Throughout my whole experience, I found waiting was the most difficult part. Waiting for my diagnosis, then waiting to learn how bad the cancer was. They were two incredibly difficult weeks.” She recalls.
In April, Bernie was scheduled for a mastectomy and lymph node removal. This was then followed by chemotherapy and radiation.
Bernie recalls the reality of going through her diagnosis and treatment during the pandemic “Going through everything during COVID was difficult, I couldn’t have anyone there to support me during treatment or after my surgery. I also experienced terrible pain after the mastectomy due to nerve damage.
I am the Health and Wellbeing Officer at my local GAA club, which has always helped by keeping me busy. During COVID I was lucky to have so many phone calls and cards from loved ones. I remember when I turned fifty, no one could call over to the house but they all organised a drive by for me. It was very emotional, seeing my family, friends and members of the club.”
“I would like people, especially women, to be kinder to themselves. I am a mother of two and farmer’s wife, I have a very busy lifestyle. Typically, I used be working hard most of the week and looking after everyone else but myself."
In May 2021 Bernie was back in Dublin for a check-up, she told her doctor she didn’t feel right “I didn’t feel like I was making progress, something in the back of my mind was making me feel uneasy. I asked to have another scan done, the doctor was hesitant to do so, but eventually agreed.”
When the results of the scan returned, Bernie learnt that unfortunately the cancer had come back and spread to her bone.
“It is incredibly difficult to hear you only have two to five years to live. To take that news in.
“After receiving this update, they decided to start me on a new chemotherapy but I had a terrible reaction to this, so they had to take me off that. I am now on hormonal injections every month. Right now everything is stable, but I have a scan every three months to see how I am doing. I try to deal with my cancer with humour when I can.
At the moment, I look the same as before I was diagnosed, yet I am still living with my cancer every day and dealing with the symptoms of my diagnosis. It’s not always the cancer, it’s something that the cancer is causing. It is also tough seeing the affect it has on my family.” Bernie adds.
Bernie says she would like others to prioritise their health “I would like people, especially women, to be kinder to themselves. I am a mother of two and farmer’s wife, I have a very busy lifestyle. Typically, I used be working hard most of the week and looking after everyone else but myself.
When I was growing up, there wasn’t the same emphasis on minding yourself. So I would say to trust your gut, if you have to stand up for yourself, do it. You know your own body best.”
Bernie is also raising awareness of three local children from her area, Shannon (13), Peter (11), and Nadine (9), who have been so moved by local cancer stories that they are now donating their precious family pet calf George for auction in Monaghan mart. All funds raised from the auction will go to the Irish Cancer Society and Crocus Cancer Support Monaghan.
Care For Your Pair
This October, the Irish Cancer Society are encouraging you to ‘Care For Your Pair’, by being breast aware. Call into your local Centra store this Thursday 29th September until Sunday 2nd October and support those impacted by breast cancer by donating €1 at the till.