Together we are standing up to cancer

Jennifer Foran Smyth


My story starts with a regular visit to my GP in August 2019. At the end of my visit she offered to check my breasts, how fortunate I was to have such a diligent GP ! She found a lump on the side of my right breast and referred me to The Orchid Clinic in the CUH. I really felt it was probably a cyst as my Aunt had cysts in the past or maybe I was just protecting myself.


I left work the following Tuesday to have my mammogram. I was examined first by a junior doctor and then a lady doctor examined me too, I later learned that she was Dr Norma Relligan. She said she wanted to biopsy it. My heart stopped when I heard that word. A mammogram, scan and biopsy followed in the space of 2 hours. I cried during the biopsy and I heard her use the phrase “tracking towards the nipple.


10 days later myself and my husband were called back, I still felt it wasn’t cancerous but I think that was a self protection mechanism, my poor husband was very worried.


They told us pretty quickly. I was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma Insitu.
The good news it was pre cancerous cells but as I had 9cm of it they wanted to take the full breast. Another colour dye mammogram, an MRI followed. They did say it was difficult to see with my breasts (later to learn the term dense breasts).


I had my mastectomy and reconstruction on 14th of November 2019. I was so grateful to have the reconstruction done at the same time but it was still hard the first time I looked in the mirror as the implant was like an orange and my other breast was like a cows udder! I knew this could be fixed later.


I returned a week later for histology report on the removed breast. Having removed the breast they did in fact discover a 1.2 cm tumour. I was numb. I thought I was done. Now 12 weeks of chemo, a year of Herceptin injections and 5 years of tamoxifen. I was fortunate that I would not require radiotherapy.


The first time you enter a chemo unit it generates feelings of fear, sadness, loss. Why me? Am I really sitting in a chair with a necessary poison pumping through my veins. The bright side is your minded and treated with kindness and empathy. I was given my Blanket of Hope the first day and I can’t put into words what it meant to me. I still use it on my bad days when I need some TLC ❤


I didn’t let my hair fall out. My husband shaved my head 2 weeks into chemo firstly to a number 2 all round and when that thinned out he shaved it all. That was tough, very tough for both of us.


I completed my 12 weeks and met amazing women, who will be friends for life and my support system outside my family and friends. The Cork Cancer Care Center also have a great WhatsApp group, which makes you feel you are not alone with Cancer.


In truth the hard work of acceptance and healing came after. I also finished chemo 6 days before the first COVID lockdown. The following 3 months I was happy, relieved, sad, emotional, depressed and angry. I found the anger visceral, I can only describe it as a whirlpool that would start in my chest and rise. I hated the way it made me feel and how it affected my thoughts.


I contacted Cork Cancer Care Centre and they were so kind. I started counselling which really helped me process. The Cork Cancer Care Centre is so homely and Linda and the team are awesome. I can’t wait until I see it when COVID is gone because “having the chat” with other cancer Warriors is hugely helpful especially with the post recovery and all the side affects of meds you are taking.


Today, I am still healing and I am in less of a hurry to “just move on” I’m letting that evolve whatever way it will. One of the upsides of Cancer is the love I have for my husband, daughter, family and friends burns brighter than I ever thought possible.


Thank you Cork Cancer Care Centre for helping us at the most vulnerable time of our lives ❤

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