No one else is going to rear my children
I try to remain positive but sometimes it can be very hard, writes SIOBHAN FARRAGHER
IN MAY 2009, we were on holiday in Portugal and I was putting sun cream on when I felt a hard lump in my right breast. I wasn’t worried about it initially as I had had lumps removed before and they were always benign.
To be on the safe side, I decided to have it checked out when we returned home.
My GP thought it might be the result of hormonal activity as I had recently had a hysterectomy but she referred me to a breast surgeon who did a needle test and said I probably wouldn’t hear anything for six weeks as it was unlikely there was anything to worry about.
But the following day I got a call asking me to come in for a biopsy and I began to get a bit scared.
My worst fears were realised when results showed cancerous cells in my breast and in the lymph nodes under my arm. It was very upsetting but I knew I just had to get on with it and get treatment started as quickly as possible.
I was diagnosed with Her 2 Positive cancer and had to have a partial mastectomy and removal of the lymph nodes.
I was only 36, had never smoked and was generally healthy. Even my surgeon was perplexed by the diagnosis, particularly as nine out of my 14 nodes were cancerous.
After the surgery, I began chemotherapy which was quite gruelling.
Soon afterwards I developed a cough so I had a Cat scan to see if anything was amiss anywhere else.
I wasn’t expecting them to find anything but the scan revealed a scratch on my left lung which doctors put down to childhood chicken pox.
However, my oncologist, Dr Macon Keane, didn’t believe that was all it was and kept pushing for more investigations. Eventually, he insisted on a lung biopsy which was very invasive and took four hours, but when they got deep into the tissue, more Her 2 cells were found.
This was November 2009 and I had to have more chemotherapy which lasted until March 2010. Once that was over, we went on holiday again to Portugal which was great as we were all glad to be away from hospitals for a while.
But in September 2010, I had a routine scan and discovered, to my horror, that the cancer cells were active again. Surgery wasn’t an option so I went back on chemo again until March 2011, when I was given the all-clear again.
Then a month later I came home from the shops and couldn’t remember having been out. When I went in for my next check-up, I mentioned it to the nurse as I thought it could have been a reaction to the medication I was on.
But when she told Dr Keane he said he wanted to send me for a brain scan. This was completely unexpected as I never imagined there would be a problem with my brain.
But unfortunately the cancer had spread and the reason I had been feeling strange and forgetting things was because cells had developed in my brain.
Three cells showed up initially but when I went to the Beacon in Dublin, they discovered I actually had six.
It was my birthday when I heard that news and I was completely devastated but I knew there was nothing I could do but carry on fighting.
I had two weeks of radiation on my brain in June 2011 and last September, had a full mastectomy.
I haven’t bothered with a reconstruction as I have always been too ill to have it done and although I was free of cancer for a few months, it all became active again in March of this year.
So I went through another round of chemo and then back to the Beacon for targeted radiotherapy which was directed straight at the tumour.
Since then I have been fine and had a lovely summer with the boys. We went down to Cork for a break away and I have put sickness to one side so I can concentrate on my family.
I try to remain positive but sometimes it can be very hard.
When I was really ill and lying in bed listening to the boys playing downstairs, I felt very upset, but my husband Ken always pulled me out of it and told me they all needed me to get better.
I am determined that no one else is going to rear my children and I want to be there to watch them grow up, so I have to be positive and fight this thing.
I have always been honest with the boys and the first time my hair started to fall out, I asked Ken to shave it off and they were there too – my little fellow even had a go himself.
So they have known right from the start that I haven’t been well but I am getting better all the time.
Some days it’s difficult to be cheerful but I try to be as normal as I can. I have had a full mastectomy, have surgical scars all over my body and have lost my hair three times, but every day I make an effort to get up on my feet, put a bit of make-up on and make the most of life.
I know my form of cancer is not curable, but it is treatable and for the sake of my children, my husband and the rest of my family, I am going to pick myself up and keep going.
The treatment and support I have received from everyone around me has been amazing and even though I have had a few low moments, I have no intention of giving up.
In fact, I plan to be around for a long time yet.
In conversation with Arlene Harris
BREAST CANCER AWARENESS
The Get the Girls campaign is a rallying call to all women in Ireland to get out and do their bit to combat breast cancer by raising money for breast cancer research. Visit getthegirls.ieto get involved.
Breast cancer awareness month kicked off on October 5th. Visit cancer.ieor call the helpline on 1800 200 700
Siobhán Farragher is 39 years old.
She and her husband, Ken, have three sons – Kealan (12), Shane (10) and Mark (6). As October marks Breast Cancer Awareness month, the Galway woman reveals how the disease took its toll on her health but why she is determined to remain positive and healthy for her children.
“ I have had a full mastectomy, have surgical scars all over my body and have lost my hair three times, but every day I make an effort to get up on my feet, put a bit of make-up on and make the most of life