When Sinead Osgood found a lump in her breast during the October bank holiday weekend in 2018, she made an appointment with her doctor.
The then engineer and part-time lecturer says that for the previous 18 months, she had been feeling off-form. “I was working down in Cork and teaching in Athlone and it all got a bit too much for me,” says Sinead, who lives in Roscommon.
“I stopped doing both of those jobs and I just couldn’t get going. I took another role in an Australian company and travelled there but was too tired and I couldn’t concentrate. It was like I was putting the foot to the floor and I was in the wrong gear.”
Her GP referred her for assessment, there was a 14-week wait but she decided to use her medical insurance to get a private scan and Sinead was subsequently diagnosed with Stage 2 invasive ductal breast cancer.
In November, she had a lumpectomy and then needed another lumpectomy in December, which showed that the tumour was larger than her medical team had initially thought The cancer was Stage 3 and had spread to her lymph nodes. She began chemotherapy in January 2019.
“In a way, the diagnosis was a relief because I knew what it was and I knew it would start getting better,” she says.
During treatment, she encountered some setbacks including a sinus infection that caused her face to swell, and a suspected heart attack, which was ruled out after a week in hospital when her symptoms were found to be caused by a reaction to chemotherapy.
Sinead finished chemotherapy in May 2019 and started on Tamoxifen in June, which put her into menopause. “It was likely falling off a cliff,” says Sinead, who was 43 at the time. “Everyone says you get a bit hot but it was like I was standing under a shower because of the sweat that was coming off my face.”
She then had a mastectomy in July, and she began radiotherapy in September, finishing her treatment end of October but as that takes 2 weeks for the full effect it was more like November. She found radiotherapy to be tough and she also faced financial difficulties during this time.
“I’m a single person, I had to stop working and I had no money at all and I had a mortgage and all those other things, and to try and get information on what I could access was difficult,” she says. “I had excellent help from family but that should not be necessary.”
After treatment, she found that she was fatigued for about a year. “I had to go to bed every afternoon around 3 pm and lie down for an hour in order to be able to get going again,” she says.
Thankfully, Sinead is now in good health, although she is still waiting to have breast reconstruction, and she hopes her story might help others in a similar situation.
“The reason I am sharing all this is that somebody could read this and it could be about to happen to them or they might be in the middle of it and think ‘It’s just so awful’. I want to tell them that it does get better by 100pc and it’s possible to get back to better than you ever were,” she says.
“I feel that I’m better than I ever was.” During treatment, she used the services of Vita House in Roscommon where she availed of reflexology to help with anxiety. She also used the Irish Cancer Society’s counselling service and travelled to Tuam for these sessions.
“I think counselling really helped because I got the anger and the upset out,” she says. “I actually think that the anger is there somewhere within everyone because cancer is a big trauma and you’ll either suppress it and it will come out in other ways or you deal with it and you move on. I think it really did help me deal with it.”
Throughout, she drew on the support of her family and her friends.
“I was very lucky. I have a very good circle around me and something that this diagnosis taught me was that I was much more fortunate in that area than I thought I was. Sometimes it’s not easy to see what a good circle of friends you have. When I needed them, they were there for me and couldn’t do enough.
Somebody brought me to chemo each time and stayed with me; I had dinners cooked for me; I had evenings out; I had people coming over with takeaways or just to sit with me. My little dog was walked and minded. It was fabulous and I think if I’ve brought anything with me, it’s to keep that going and not be too busy to make time for friends.”
She adds, “Please trust in your instincts and if you think there is something wrong with you, then keep looking for the answer and if you have a spare few bob donate to the Irish Cancer Society.”
Sinead 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