‘I’ve got cancer, it hasn’t got me’

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Tracy Wallace (42), from Strabane, who has four children aged 17, 15, 10 and 9, was diagnosed with breast cancer last August. As part of the Cancer Focus Think Pink! breast cancer awareness campaign, she shares her experiences and encourages other cancer patients to stay positive.

The mum-of-four explains: “I was having a bath and noticed my left breast was just solid, though there was no lump. I mentioned it to my sister-in-law and she thought it could be a blocked milk duct, so I went to the local hospital and got antibiotics.

“When I got home I went to see my own doctor and within a week I was diagnosed. He said he had never seen any like it. I was shell-shocked. You never imagine getting news like that. It was like someone had slapped me hard in the face.

“It was difficult telling the children and they have each dealt with it in their own way. Together we have decided that I have got cancer, it hasn’t got me.

“I had chemotherapy before Christmas and in January I had a mastectomy, followed by radiotherapy in April.”

Since then Tracy has had some further health problems but has kept her positive outlook. She has just had her final chemotherapy and is starting herceptin.

“I don’t sit still or mope around feeling sorry for myself,” she says. “I’m best when I’m busy. I do my voluntary work – I work with young adults with special needs - and all the stuff I normally do. Nothing has changed except I have no hair and no boob.

“As far as the treatment goes, I have been quite lucky. I thought I was going to be laid up all over the school holidays during the summer, but actually I wasn’t. I’m not someone who often feels sick, though I did feel tired for a day or so after chemo and my sense of taste has gone for the moment. Apart from that I feel fine.

“I came in contact with Cancer Focus Northern Ireland when I was at Glenview, the patient hotel at Belfast City Hospital. Joanne Robinson, the Cancer Focus art therapist, who is lovely, introduced me to art therapy. I didn’t do too much drawing, I was talking too much.

“I really, really enjoyed the laughter and chat which was the important part of it for me. I could see, though, that other people were pouring their emotions into their art and they loved that.

“For me it was a fantastic opportunity to meet people who were in the same boat. Everyone understands what you are going through. I found that very helpful.

“We could swap notes about our treatment and I made some lovely friends who I still keep in contact with.

“It has helped me stay positive which I think is hugely important. I did drink too much tea, though!

“Cancer Focus was a marvellous support to me when I most needed it. I would advise any cancer patient to take full advantage of the charity’s many free services which include counselling, helpline, art therapy, bra-fitting service and the family support service.”

If you would like to find out more about Cancer Focus and its services please click on www.cancerfocusni.org, call 028 9066 3281 or email care@cancerfocusni.org.

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