Hi I’m Charlie the founder of FUC and this is my journey so far. Firstly I hate that word journey. I remember a nurse saying to me at my first ultrasound that this was just the start of my journey and I hated it then. But unfortunately that’s the best word to describe it. You may take different paths and sometimes the road is bumpy, sometimes it’s bloody rocky, but always fighting for the same thing at the destination. So my journey began in July 2017. I was just in my kitchen reading something and my hand brushed past my left boob. I felt a lump that I knew wasn’t in the right place to be my nipple. I poked it, I pushed it, I squeezed it. It was hard, felt close to the surface and about the size of a broad bean. A wave of panic rushed through me. I asked my partner if he’d noticed anything (ironically he’s a boob man) he hadn’t. So I made a doctor’s appointment the next day. I was examined and received a very blunt letter which stated it was very probable this was cancer so I would be fast tracked to the hospital for further examinations. The side story to this time in my life is that I had been training for my 9th boxing fight and was literally torn about what to do. I hadn’t had a confirmed diagnosis but this had certainly destroyed my head game. Long story short I decided I would still fight and it is a decision I don’t regret. I’d put my all into training as fighters do and I did the same with the fight, I was fortunate enough to come out with a win and a nice shiny belt and I wouldn’t change that for anything. Only a couple of people knew how hard it was for me to get in the ring that night, it was the first time I’d worn breast protectors given to me by the shows organiser and a friend of mine after a long ‘should I shouldn’t I?’ discussion on the phone.

So back to my hospital appointment. I feel I should apologise in advance at this point as I’m 18 months further down the line but 2 diagnoses and 7 ops and various treatments later, my cancer timeline gets a bit muddled. I will do the best job my memory allows. So hospital for mammogram and ultrasound at the ultrasound they took a biopsy. That was painful, l I cried. Trip back to the hospital. Cancer diagnosis. Oestrogen positive. They had a treatment plan for me lumpectomy. Removal of some of the nodes to see if the cancer had spread, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. I had my own plan thank you very much and it certainly didn’t involve chemo. They used to use it on POW. Not for me thanks. I’d heard how horrific it was and what it did to your body. I fought long and hard against it and finally I was offered a rate of reoccurrence test to see if chemo was absolutely necessary, I jumped at the chance. The results came back that I was on the cusp of mid to low. My oncologist told me that actually I had probably been right and chemo would be more detrimental to me than helpful. I remember going out with my girls to celebrate that night. That was my first and last celebration to date on my journey.

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.

— Rabindranath Tagore

So lumpectomy done! Node removal done!

Unfortunately cancer was found in the nodes 4 removed and cancer was found in 2 of them. They wanted me to go for full node clearance. I wasn’t up for this either. I still don’t fully understand why them removing something they say was like a gateway to stopping the disease spreading was the best idea. I didn’t think so and I fought again. But this time lost I could of fought longer harder stronger but they’d had there medical meetings and I was scared so another op for full node clearance.

After a certain amount of recovery it was radiation time. I was booked in for 30 days worth. As it happened the machine broke (regularly) appointments were cancelled and rescheduled all off this led to me only having 3 sessions before I found another lump on the scar tissue of the original lumpectomy. I remember thinking it couldn’t be again. What were the actual chances? Slim to none surely. It was in the actual scar it had to be scar tissue? Should I even bother ringing the breast team? I did, they assured me I was being paranoid but to come in anyway. I saw my consultant and surgeon who also assured me I was being paranoid and it was in fact scar tissue but she would send me for and ultrasound just to set my mind at ease.

I went in for the ultra sound there and then. I daren’t feel anything. Just wait and see. All medical staff had seemed very positive this was nothing to worry about so I was just going to go with that. I remember the radiologist took ages he got slower and slower and kept passing over the same bit. With every second that went on I began to lose confidence. Eventually he said ” I’m sorry this looks too suspicious I’m going yo have to take a biopsy”. This time it was very close yo the chest wall so painful again and I had another cry. I tho k it was probably another couple of weeks wait for the results which is awful. That wait God you convince yourself your riddled, your stage 4, its terminal, nothing will help etc. I think the worse part for me was thinking about my children. Not being there for them not seeing them grow up. Having to write letters for them for every future birthday. There were a lot of tears but always alone.
To break away from this part of the story briefly I had told both of my teenage boys which was an unbearable task. I’d only let them know when I was 100% sure that there would be surgery and I’d have to spend time in hospital and I couldn’t really get away with not telling them. They coped as any teenage boys would I suppose there have been ups and downs for them and they have found times incredibly hard as I was hardly ever I’ll before this and always very active and fit. I did let them know this wasn’t an excuse for them to go off the rails though and so far I’ve managed to keep them on mostly. They never wanted their friends to know and at first I was slightly offended I thought they were embarrassed if some thing I had no control over but eventually I understood we talked about it openly at home some times laughed and joked about it sometimes were scared. But they needed to had a time where it wasn’t the first thing people said where it wasn’t always a conversation. Where they could just not think about it for a while.

Anyway to go back to results day. It was my eldest son’s 17th birthday and my partner and I went together hoping and praying this was just scar tissue. I think everyone was relying on statistics how unlikely this second lump would be cancer. After another ridiculously long wait we wait in and I think is learnt to read people’s faces by this point. The consultant the breast nurses. A young junior doctor. It was cancer again this time HER2 positive. This scared the shit out of me I knew a lot of people’s moms, sisters and friends who had passed away from this cancer. I was also petrified because of 2 different cancers in 4 months.
I didn’t cry though. They told me it was ok to cry (And later told me they weren’t sure I was human as I was always so strong in those appointments). I told them i would cry later but right now I had to get back to the house to host a family party for my son’s party. So that’s what I did.

When I got my treatment plan this time I didn’t fight anything. Chemo. Ok. More radiation. Ok. Another op. Ok. Masectomy. Ok. Reconstruction. Ok. I sometimes wish I’d been strong enough to stick to a more natural route. I went to see a natural doctor when i was diagnosed the first time and changed my diet and put my foot down about radical surgery etc. But the 2nd diagnosis scared the hell out of me. And I was ready to do anything.

So we had Xmas and new year if I re member rightly i didn’t tell any if my family until after that as I didn’t want to spoil Xmas for them. In January chemo started. I don’t even know how to explain it apart from its dark really dark. I literally seemed to get every side effect they said might/could happen. Sickness diarrhoea mouth ulcers aching muscles shivers hit flushes blisters spots pins and needles exhaustion and more. I actually became very I’ll with my first round and ended up back in hospital. If lost 4kg and was so dehydrated that they had to put my hands on a bucket of hot water to find any veins to get bloods. By chance my oncologist was there she saw my name on one of the ward boards and came to see me. She told me I should of gone in days ago. Chemo was bad but shouldn’t of been that bad but I didn’t know it was my first one and was always told it was horrific. So I’d just coped with it for as long as I could. I stayed in hospital for a few days while they rehydrated me and tried to get me as near to normal as possible. I left hospital and went straight to work something in hindsight I shouldn’t of done I remember laying on the floor waiting for my first client wondering how I’d get through 3 of them. 3 hours something I’d normally not even think twice about but it seemed incomprehensible at this point.
There really was a fine line between doing enough to keep me going and doing too much leaving me exhausted. The same went for my training I actually managed to train during chemo it was bloody hard but I did it again though it was great for my mental health but I had to be careful not to wear my self down.
I want to make it very clear at this point that the choice to train through my treatment was and is personal to me. I had trained lo g before cancer and I hope to be training long after I can’t tell you how it helps me mentally let alone physically. And as for Thai boxing smashing the shit out of something when to be had a bad day in anything us somewhat of a cure. I’m a fighter in the literal sense of the word I know what to do I know how to get my head into it. I can’t advocate it enough. However I totally I understand that’s personal choice some people find the thought of exercise or the gym overwhelming or just aren’t into it. And that cool that’s people we are all different thank God. But I do think its important to get some kind of exercise in people always seem to think that means the gym

Far from it. Horse riding, dancing, walking, swimming, golf, rollerskating, whatever gets you moving.
It’s a proven fact exercise can help with cancers symptoms and side effects too

Heavy hearts, like heavy clouds in the sky, are best relieved by the letting of a little water.

— Christopher Morley

Ok so back yo the story.

In a weird way my awful first round of chemo was actually a silver lining of was never gonna be that bad again and shouldn’t of been in the first place. It gave me that attitude if I can get through that I can get through mist things. And I was right the next rounds were awful but better. It was a crazy loop of have chemo feel ok for a few days start to feel shit. Feel really shit. Be awful. Start to come out of it feel vaguely normal then next round. I can only describe it as a very dark place.

While chemo was going on the medical team decided I should be tested for the bracha 2 gene. Pro ably because I don’t know 1 side of my me Do so history as I know a lot of women aren’t offered the test. My treatment plan had now changed to a single mastectomy once chemo was over and my body was able to cope with surgery. I was fighting for a double mastectomy as I didn’t like the idea of them looking different feel g different and being different and most importantly the risk that’s carried of cancer coming back in the “good” breast. It was a no a lot of no’s, one fact I remember having nearly an hour appointment where the team were persuading me that single was so much better for me. As I recovery time what I would and wouldn’t be able to do after surgery etc. Within a few days I received a call to tell me I was BRCA2 positive. Amongst other things statistics can vary on this, so please feel free to do your own research. But to my knowledge BRCA2 for me meant theres up to a 40% chance of getting breast cancer in the other breast and up to a 30% chance of ovarian cancer as dae as i understand. To be honest it was just another knock I didn’t particularly feel overly upset or angry just disappointed. Until it was explained further to me in a separate genetics appointment. But that’s another story. My next appointment with the breast team came and I assumed they had forwarded the info from genetics but it would seem not. They immediately informed me surgery had changes and it would now be a double mastectomy and reconstruction. As I said previously this is what I originally wanted but they had just spent about 2 hours telling me why the double wasn’t my best option so I found it hard just to switch back. However that was the plan so I had to get my head into it.

July Friday 13th was B day. I can play some things down but this was a massive op. I think around 8 hours in surgery a very long recovery and I was scared.
I made it through but this really put me on the back foot I’d manages to still train during chemo but this surgery was having mine of it I couldn’t even sit up after I had drains fitted to remove excess fluid which stated for around 4 weeks or more. I hates those drains I couldn’t do anything with them in they felt horrid and just debilitated. When they finally got removed the team seemed to be worried about my left boob (the trouble maker) something wasn’t right another long story short but they tried 3 times to save that boob including surgery under a local in the surgeon room after a routine check up. It ended in me having to have the left implant removed the day after I moved house. I was upset and angry at the beginning

The move was meant to be a fresh start I knew it wouldn’t be a clean slate but just a breath of fresh air after over a year of cancer cancer cancer
But nope after the first night in my new home I had to wake up and go to hospital and have my boob removed. Apparently the skin had just detonated. Nowhere near the scar a completely separate issue . They were able to see my implant on that side

They’d never seen that before.

I was really getting fed up of hearing those words it was certainly feeding my paranoia.

So 1 boob now. A prosthetic to start to use. After the op they gave me what I liked to cool the build a bear tit. It had to be soft I had to fill it with a cotton wool like material. And use this until my prosthetic appointment.

There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.

— Gilbert K. Chesterton

I loved boobs. But it just wasn't meant to be

Unfortunately in mid November 2018 I spent another week on hospital as the right side had started to go wrong. I knew some thing wasn’t right and took myself there and ended up admitted the same day (After I’d done the school run said I’d be back!) After days of trying to save it i was told that the right implant now needed to be removed. I actually was the most relaxed out of all my surgeries strangely relieved.

I loved boobs. But it just wasn’t meant to be. I’d fed my babies. I was on with It. However that’s not the op that happened the surgeon saw an opportunity to save it and did so. I know some women are more than happy with 1 boob. But it wasn’t working for me or my lifestyle and how active I was I hated how it felt how I moved and was happy to say goodbye to it. But as it turns put I didn’t have to.

An appointment was made for me to see the plastic surgeons at Salisbury to look into rebuilding my breasts from my own body. I wasn’t into it but they surprised me with different options when I went just before Xmas this year. I’m still thinking about it. I’m on the waiting list but I may decide just to have the right 1 removed. As the operation is another 8 hours at least 2 surgeons 1 week in hospital and 3 months recovery to “normal” health. The waiting list is a year. So any things to consider financially more time off work I’ve hardly been able to work for 18 months. My mental health when I can’t train let alone barely move. The fact thus extends the whole tho g to touching on 3 years when really I’d just like some kind of closure. Bit we will see ever the optimist slightly more tainted by life I must admit

But here I am with a uni boob a lot more scar a Lord knows how much anaesthetic in my system and chemo brain. But I do have and always had bit this whole “experience” has highlighted is a fantastic support network and people might not always say or do the right thing but how can they when I don’t know what that is? But I know they are here for me some of them walk with me every step of the way some silent some not. Some pop up at the hardest parts some do it relay style but however I get there there have been point where I’ve had to be carried which I’m forever grateful for FUC

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