A Limavady woman who has survived breast cancer has spoken of how the devastating diagnosis has changed her outlook in life, and how support for research into finding a cure for the killer disease is so important.
Two and a half years on from her diagnosis, Finvola Cutmore from Aghanloo says she is lucky to have come through such a harrowing time, but she also feels unlucky that she had to go through it.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ during the month-long campaign ‘Stand Up To Cancer’, Finvola hopes by sharing her story she will raise awareness. She doesn’t want anyone else to suffer as she did.
“I did the ‘Slide On’ event run by Cancer Research UK twice in Derry and it was brilliant. And yes, every penny counts because I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I did. You want a cure for cancer before anybody has to go through it,” said Finvola, who works at Seagate.
“I look at life differently now. I used to be obsessed with work and I had to get things done. Now, I do what I can. I feel lucky that I’ve come out the other side, but unlucky I had to go through it.”
In September 2012, Finvola found a lump in her armpit. She sought medical advice, but a mammogram showed all was clear.
However, Finvola said she knew there was something just not right.
Five months later and, spurred on by a family member who texted her for a full week pushing her to go and see the doctor for the second time, Finvola pushed for further examination and had an ultra sound. Within four hours on the day of the ultra sound, Finvola was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I just kept thinking it’s not happening. This isn’t happening to me. I just put it to the back of my mind. I came home and thought ‘this isn’t me - this doesn’t happen to me - this happens to somebody else’. You just get on with it and you keep going,” she said,
Always there to support others, Finvola said she had no option but to carry on. “I thought ‘I have to do this’,” she said.
Following surgery to remove the lump, Finvola was asked to return to hospital in three weeks’ time, when more devastating news revealed that the cancer had spread to the lymphnodes.
“I had all my lymphnodes removed followed by six doses of chemotherapy and 20 of radiotherapy,” recalls Finvola.
“Losing my hair was the worst bit. I remember the day I went to the shower and my hair just came out in clumps, and looking in the mirror and seeing the changes and thinking ‘I do have this’ and ‘this is happening’. Then you realise it is real.”
Finvola faced more worries as an MRI scan in October 2014 queried bone cancer in the sternum.
“They told me they could not do a biopsy as it could damage my heart,” said Finvola, “so I had to have injections every four weeks for six months. I have a major fear of needles, so in order to minimise their use, I made the decision to have my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed,” she continued, explaining the week following the surgery she was told the doctors in Belfast had looked at more scans and said it was not bone cancer , “so all the injections stopped. Maybe if I had of known the week before I might not have went for the operation, but what is done is done. You can never be too careful when it comes to cancer .”
Two and a half years on, however, and Finvola is living life to the full. “I’m grand. Before I was sick, I was on the go all the time and I was never sick. I do look back and think ‘oh my God, it actually happened’,” said Finvola.
Finvola’s younger sister, Orla said watching her sister suffer was harrowing.
“I’m so grateful for the treatment that saved my sister’s life,” said Orla “and I’m so proud to support ‘Stand Up To Cancer’. Finvola is an inspiration to everyone who knows her as she just got on with it all through her treatment, never complaining. I really appreciate the power of research, and that’s why I want to encourage as many people as possible to unite and join ‘Stand Up To Cancer’ and help raise as much money as possible,” said Orla. “I’m just glad she has come through it all and she’s here. Finvola was always there for me, and she is so good to my children. She’s a like a mother to them. She’s the best thing. I don’t know what I’d do without her.”