Listen to your body – ‘It made all the difference for me’
Irish Cancer Society supported Georgina Radic through her diagnosis and recovery
Georgina Radic on her wedding day.
Being told you have cancer is undoubtedly shocking, but, for the past year, this has been coupled with the added fear and confusion brought about by the pandemic.
Many of the services offered by the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) have been moved online as, being confined largely to their homes, patients need support even more than ever. And, along with counselling and information services, the annual Boots-supported Daffodil Day fundraising event (taking place this year on Friday, March 26th – visit cancer.ie/daffodilday) has also gone virtual for the second year in a row.
Without the usual coffee mornings, daffodil sales and other fundraising activities, the charity is desperately in need of support in order to continue to help the many patients around the country who rely on its presence.
Georgina Radic is one of those people who relied on various ICS supports after being diagnosed with cancer a year and a half ago. “During the summer of 2019, I had been feeling very fatigued and having headaches which lasted for days,” says the 28-year-old Wicklow woman. “I put it down to a busy lifestyle but on the Sunday evening of August 25th, I found a lump in my right breast while lying on the couch. I will never forget how terrified I was, and my mind went immediately to the worst case scenario.
“I remember looking at my sleeping daughter [Robyn, now 5] and just sobbing. It was one of my lowest moments and I hadn’t even been diagnosed at that stage.”
After finding the lump, Georgina, who is married to Richie, didn’t hesitate and the following morning went to see her GP, who didn’t seem too alarmed and suggested a referral for further tests in the coming weeks. But she didn’t want to wait and instead decided to go for a private appointment, a decision which quite possibly changed the outcome of her cancer story.
“I was only 26 at the time, so because of my age, the doctor didn’t seem overly concerned when I went to see her the following day,” she says. “She mentioned the possibility of it being a fibroadenoma, which are apparently common in women of my age, and said she would refer me for further tests. I was told that I should receive an appointment in about six to eight weeks, but my gut was telling me that something wasn’t right, so I decided I wanted to get it investigated sooner than that.
My surgeon told me that they were almost certain that we had caught this early – but said had I not [been diagnosed at the time], it was something that had the potential to kill me
“I was lucky to get an appointment for an ultrasound in Beaumont Hospital two days later and they told me to come back the following day for a biopsy. Then 10 days later, on the 9th of September, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.”
The mother-of-one says she was devastated by the diagnosis, but was also so relieved that she followed her instinct by insisting on further tests. “I can still feel the atmosphere in the room that day,” she says. “I couldn’t even look at Richie, who was my fiancee at the time, but heard the surgeon say words like tumour, aggressive and chemotherapy. I couldn’t believe what was happening and just wanted to scream but I couldn’t even speak. My surgeon told me that they were almost certain that we had caught this early – but said had I not [been diagnosed at the time], it was something that had the potential to kill me.
“I immediately thought about my daughter and feared so much about how this would affect her. My mum said to me that day that we would all protect her and that is what we did as, for me, that was always the most important thing. And leaving the hospital that day, I could feel my body switch to survival mode, I wanted to know what I had to do and how soon I could get started.”
Once she was diagnosed, Georgina was booked in for surgery followed by treatment and says she got through it with the support of her friends, family and all the staff who looked after her every need.
“My treatment started with a lumpectomy just nine days after diagnosis, followed by 16 weeks of chemotherapy,” she says. “I then had four rounds of AC, followed by four rounds of Taxol and then 20 rounds of radiation. Looking back, I’m not sure how I coped and actually think that I was amazing to get through it. I never dreaded going into a chemo day because I knew that afterwards I would be one closer to the finish line.
“Of course, it was a really tough time, but my family and friends carried me through it with such strength, support and encouragement at every hurdle. I could not have done it without them. They are still my biggest supporters, and I count my lucky stars for them every day.
“I also had incredible confidence and trust in my medical team from the beginning. As far as I am concerned, my surgeon and oncologist are heroes, and I am so grateful to them both.”
The lockdown gave me time to recover and heal... to laugh, cry and process everything I had been through
Georgina finished treatment at the end of March last year, just as the first lockdown began and says the time at home was precious and allowed her to get stronger, both mentally and physically. She also made time for a very special event.
“The lockdown gave me time to recover and heal and I got to spend time with my family, to laugh, cry and process everything I had been through,” she says. “Also, we had planned to get married on June 19th and this was a massive focus for us throughout everything. Thinking about the celebration we would have at the end, got us through all the tough times. And because of the restrictions at the time, we moved our wedding to the 28th of August, which was exactly a year from the day of my first appointment at Beaumont Hospital. It was the most magical day, filled with so much love and happiness.
“Now that it is all over, I feel happy and healthy. I have been working on myself a lot over the past few months and continue doing so every day as adjusting to life after cancer has been one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced. Of course, I have had some low moments, but the highs outweigh them by a mile.
“The other day, I was in the car with my daughter listening to the Greatest Showman soundtrack when I looked in the mirror and saw her belting out the words. It was lovely and I said to myself yes, this is it. It is the small moments like that which make me so happy to be living for, as they really mean so much more to me now.”
The cancer survivor would encourage others who have just been diagnosed to seek advice from the ICS and to accept any support that is offered.
“Everyone’s experience with cancer is different, every diagnosis is different and how individual people deal with it is going to be different,” she says. “For me, connecting with someone who had been through the same diagnosis helped a lot. I reached out to people through social media who were so helpful and seeing some of them looking so healthy years on from their diagnosis gave me such strength and helped me to believe that I would get there too.
“I would say take any help that is offered as looking after yourself throughout treatment is so important. So, when someone wants to help, let them. My auntie set up a meal train for me which is a website which essentially allows family and friends to sign up to certain days to drop meals to your house. I would highly recommend that to anyone who is looking to help out a family member or friend who may have been recently diagnosed. And I also got great support from the Irish Cancer Society which really helped.
“I so easily could have ignored the lump or left it to see if it would go away. I am so thankful I didn’t. I hope by sharing my story I can spread awareness of the disease, highlight the benefits of early detection and encourage people to listen to their bodies, know the signs and get checked if they are in any doubt. It made all the difference for me.”
Anyone with concerns or questions about cancer should contact the Irish Cancer Society support line on Freephone: 1800 200 700.