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Karen Squillinos' Story About Breast Cancer Title Image

Karen's Story

Finding a lump in your breast is something that would fill every woman with fear and dread. Luckily, a really high percentage of lumps are benign and are nothing to be concerned about. This is what I told myself after finding a small lump in my left breast in August 2013. I wasn't even going to make a doctors appointment as I thought it was nothing. My husband, Anton, was insistent I get it checked out and so I did as I was told.

In less than a week it was confirmed I had a grade 3 invasive ductal carcinoma which is a breast cancer that was developing rapidly. My diagnosis was given on the 15th August two days prior to flying off on holiday with friends. When we left the hospital I was calm and felt surprisingly ok, I now know that this was shock. I do recall thinking how unlucky I had been to fall I into the percentage of women whose breast lumps are cancerous. My next thought was that I had to tell everyone close to me as by doing that it would make it real and help Anton and I devise a plan for getting through what we knew was going to be the most difficult thing we had ever had to face together.

After sitting in a pub beer garden with a massive glass of wine for an hour I had made the calls that I needed to and most of the people I needed to tell had been told. It was out there and it was real and it was scary. I'm not one to shirk a challenge though and from that day I made a conscious decision to see my treatment journey as a life challenge and one that would make me stronger and wiser.

We flew off on holiday as planned and had the best time. While we were away we told our daughter, Sofia, about my diagnosis. Telling her was not as hard as I thought it was going to be as she is a child and children are practical and ask very direct questions. We answered her questions truthfully being careful to strike a balance and not frighten her.  As we sat in that street cafe in Minorca and I will always remember the feelings of love and support from my little family unit as we talked about the future.

Treatment started in September with an operation before moving onto 6 cycles of chemotherapy and a course of radiotherapy. As I was diagnosed with the particularly aggressive 'triple negative' sub type of breast cancer my treatment regime was equally as aggressive.

The treatment was hard and I now know that despite all of the reading I did nothing could have prepared me for the experience. It was really tough getting to grips with the fact that my body was being put under an assault when I hadn't even felt unwell with the cancer. I have rarely being unwell in my life and not being able to do daily tasks or get out of bed some days really hit me hard. Friends and family rallied continuously, and continue to do so. Their love and support as well as lots of drugs to combat the side effects of chemo carried me through the months of treatment. I also had the dog providing 'patient protection' by sitting at my feet day after day!

I am now a week out of treatment and currently, what the medics refer to as 'NED' (no evidence of disease) and I am full of hope for the future. My diagnosis and treatment has really brought the importance of relationships into sharp focus and I really could have not had a better group of people around me during the last 6 months. I don't know whether I will remain cancer free or not in the future but aren't going to sit around worrying about that. I have things to do, a life to live and people to love.

Karen Squillino
19th March 2014
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