In October 2021, 35-year-old Leona Doyle from Cashel, County Tipperary discovered a lump in one of her breasts.
“I had just finished breast-feeding my youngest daughter so initially I thought perhaps it was a swollen milk duct. I had also gone through a miscarriage in April. Following that my hormones hadn’t stabalised properly and I was in and out of hospital and still experiencing bleeding. I thought the lump must be in some way connected to all of this.”
Leona says the lump was about the size of a small plum and not painful.
“It was around this time that the musician Sarah Harding had passed away from breast cancer. I remember reading how she had put off seeking medical attention when she found lumps, so I decided it would be best to get myself checked out by my GP.”
Leona was referred on for a mammogram and following this she was sent for a scan and a biopsy. Initially the doctors believed the lump may be a cyst. However following tests, she was told that something more sinister was certainly present but they couldn’t give full confirmation until the biopsy results returned.
“I went home and decided I would prepare myself. My children’s Nanny and Grandad had passed away from cancer within the space of nine months not too long before this, my kids were so close with them, so I was scared. Everyone tells you don’t google anything, don’t press that red button. However, that’s exactly what I did. I pressed the red button. Going into my follow-up appointment, I knew what would be the best and worst case scenario.
My partner came with me to the appointment, I hadn’t raised my concerns with him as I didn’t want to worry him. When they told us it was cancer, he was in utter shock. I have never seen him lost for words, but in this moment he sat in total silence.” Leona recalls.
Leona was diagnosed with stage three invasive ductal breast cancer, ER and PR positive.
“They said it had spread to my lymph nodes and when I thought about it, I had recently noticed the lymph nodes under my arm had seemed swollen. The doctor told me however that I should respond well to treatment and he was confident, so I hung on to that.” She says.
Leona’s treatment plan included a mastectomy, radiation and chemotherapy. She will be on Tamoxifen for the next ten years. Leona also received Zoladex injections which led to the early onset of menopause.
Leona mentions what it’s like to go through cancer treatment during a pandemic “Throughout my chemotherapy I actually contracted Covid-19 twice. It definitely affected my breathing but overall, I was okay.”
“One day I was going to hospital for a scan and afterwards I decided to call into the Daffodil Centre. I remember just sitting down chatting with one of the Daffodil Nurses for about an hour. Speaking with her gave me great solace. She helped me understand my entitlements, which in the back of my mind was a worry that was always there. I have a family and mouths to feed. I sometimes see myself as a conductor of a train, if I derail, all the carriages behind me fall off.”
"I remember just sitting down chatting with one of the Daffodil Nurses for about an hour. Speaking with her gave me great solace."
Leona says she feels she is now doing much better but is still not fully back to herself “When I finished the active treatment and I was given the all clear, I remember coming home and feeling like I should be able to just move on now.
I had just gotten this great news but my body was still going through it all. I joined my local support group, Circle of Friends, I found that incredibly comforting. One thing I would like to say to others going through something similar is ‘you can do it, it is a scary time, but you can get through it.”
Leona 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
Host a Big Pink Breakfast
Host a Big Pink Breakfast this October to support breast cancer patients and their families across Ireland.
Find out more at: Cancer.ie/CareForYourPair