Clare Thickbroom from Wickford was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018; here she tells us how the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity was instrumental in her treatment.
Being a busy mum of two and commuting to London every day for my job as a PA, it had been a long week. The kids were out, and my husband Stacy was away for the weekend, so I decided to make the most of the opportunity and have a long soak in a relaxing bath. It was then I noticed a small half pea sized lump between my left breast and underarm; I knew the dangers, so I had to get it checked.
I was fortunate that my employers Charterhouse, provided all employees with private healthcare, so I was able to see a GP the following afternoon. Instantly they wanted to refer me to the Spire Wellesley Hospital in Southend, close to our home in Wickford. I met my consultant Miss Gray who immediately gave me a mammogram, ultrasound and the decision was made to take a biopsy. Four lumps were found between my breasts and underarms, two on each side. Three of them were found to be cysts but one was cancerous.
Later an MRI scan along with a blood test confirmed I had Grade three invasive HER2-positive breast cancer. Within two weeks of seeing the GP they had removed the cancer, one lymph node and we were able to start treatment. Everything had happened so fast I felt it wasn’t happening to me; Stacy came with me to every appointment and our children Sophie, 14 and Samuel, 11 were a huge support, as was my wonderful brother Kevin. I wanted to stay strong for them all but knew the impending chemotherapy and radiotherapy were going to prove testing.
My Oncologist, Mr Algurafi arranged for me to be fitted with an implantable port (also known as a “port-a-cath”) which was fitted underneath the skin and attached to a vein in my chest to feed the drugs directly into the bloodstream; an incredible ground-breaking technology in the fight against cancer.
On 26th November 2018, I started my six cycles of chemotherapy; the side effects weren’t nice but not unbearable. I made sure I got outside at least once a day during the treatment; fresh air was invaluable to fight the fatigue, nausea, indigestion, sore mouth and neuropathy. Stacy and the kids helped me to stay positive and motivated me to keep going and sometimes even a short walk along the river opposite my home was all I needed. Sadly, my eyelashes and quite a lot of my hair fell out, even with the use of the Cold Cap, but I was determined to look on the bright side; I could certainly rock a hat!
Next to endure was radiotherapy; I was fortunate that I had caught the cancer in its early stages. The next treatments brought on an early menopause but on 2nd May 2019 I rang the bell at GenesisCare, Chelmsford to signify the end of my cancer treatments; what a wonderful day that was. Throughout, we had all tried to smile, laugh and stay positive but the feeling of relief when I knew that I could soon return to normal life was inconceivable.
It was while I was enduring my radiotherapy treatments that I was first made aware of the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity. Therapist Jo gave me reflexology treatments which helped in relieving my side effects. Everyone in the Support Centres have been so lovely and welcoming, with a smile on their face and a cup of tea and a friendly ear when I’ve needed it. I was over the moon when Charterhouse Charitable Trust established by my employers, Charterhouse donated £5,000 to the charity, having helped not only me but another colleague called Helen the year before who has been in remission since January 2018.
With my treatments now finally over, the only medication I have is Herceptin injections once every three weeks for the next year and Tamoxifen (hormone therapy) for 10 years. Life and our little family are finally getting back on track and with thanks to the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity, and all the amazing care and support shown by my chemo nurses, oncologist, radiologists, consultant and doctors, I am feeling more like myself every day; I will never forget the care they have shown, and I will be forever grateful to the charity.