My Mum had breast cancer, but when I was diagnosed I hadn’t been checking my breasts regularly. I think that’s because in the back of my mind I knew I would be having a routine mammogram when I was older.”  

Suzanne was 49 when she found out she had breast cancer. Her Mum had previously been diagnosed with the disease, but because Suzanne was waiting for her first routine mammogram at 50, it hadn’t been on her mind to regularly check her breasts. 

My Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000. I was 31 at the time, so I don’t think it was really on my mind that it might happen to me. I didn’t check my breasts regularly - perhaps because I knew I would have my first breast screening appointment at 50 and that most breast cancers happen to women older than me. 

I was in bed one morning when my hand happened to go to my chest and I felt a hard lump. I felt scared and immediately made an appointment to see my GP. Tests at the hospital showed there were actually two lumps, and I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I needed a mastectomy and chemotherapy, but luckily it hadn’t affected the lymph nodes. It felt like I was in a whirlwind and it was all really overwhelming. I felt incredibly worried.  

I’m lucky to have a fantastic husband and some really supportive friends whose small gestures like talking on the phone or taking me out for coffee made a huge difference, but because I had to stop the job I loved at a restaurant and I lost my hair, I began to feel increasingly anxious and isolated. That’s when I called on the support of Wessex Cancer Trust who really helped me to talk through my fears, and slowly I began to put my life back together. My energy levels were low, but I still tried to get out of the house every day and that made me feel better. 

I’ll be on the tablets for another five years and still have some side-effects from the chemotherapy, so the reminder of cancer is still there, but I’m doing OK and feeling positive about the future.  Naturally I worry about it coming back, but I know that’s normal.      

I’d advise every woman to check their breasts regularly, however old they are. Since my diagnosis I’ve learnt that most breast cancers are found by women noticing unusual changes and going to see their doctor, so it’s really important to get to know how your breasts look and feel normally. Don’t wait for your first routine mammogram, it could be too late.