Guest List: What I Learned From Breast Cancer

Guest List: What I Learned From Breast Cancer

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 3.43.59 PM** For the next month I am dedicating Mother of All Lists to Stand Up to Cancer. Each week will be one person’s unique account of how they’ve been effected by Cancer.**

This week is courtesy of Audrey Allan AKA @cancerwithasmile:


  • Just because you are young you are not immune, I was a happy and healthy mother of two so getting breast cancer at 34 was not part of the plan.

  • There are lots of different types of breast cancer, I had a 1.2cm hormone responsive tumour which was growing thanks to the estrogen in my body.

  • It only takes one cell. Cancer starts when one cell splits to make a new one and the DNA isn’t copied correctly. This can cause the faulty cell to split in to more abnormal cells at a fast rate forming a tumour. Sometimes these tumours are benign (non cancerous) as they are not able to invade neighbouring tissues like cancer.

  • When you have breast cancer you need to get ok with flashing your chest. A lot of people saw and felt my boobs during treatment, all well worth it to save my life but still a bit bloody mortifying.

  • Chemotherapy can be really freaking awful. My side effects made me feel like I had a cross between the flu and a really bad hangover without any of the fun. There are lots of different types of chemo used to treat different cancers. I only had four lots so they were pretty intense but weirdly my side effects got better and easier to cope with each time.

    Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 3.52.57 PM
    Audrey and her gang
  • The worst side effect of chemo for me was insomnia, I didn’t sleep for 5 days straight, not a single wink for 120 hours. Temazepam helped me get through this and within a week I was back to enjoying some well-earned rest. Insomnia is a very common side effect in cancer patients but one sadly few people raise with their doctor.

  • Problems with sleeping and depression are very closely liked.

  • Shaving my hair wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. I turned it from a negative in to a positive by having a brave the shave fundraiser. It was actually very liberating. Waiting for it to grow back after treatment stopped was the annoying bit.

  • You can ‘cold cap’ to stop your hair falling out. This basically involved freezing your head for hours to stop the blood supply to your scalp and saving your hair follicles. I didn’t fancy this much and as my hair was pretty thin already it wouldn’t have been very effective.

  • I would have a lot of scans, ultra sound, MRI, CT and Mammogram.

    Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 3.46.37 PM
    Audrey decided against cold-capping
  • Mammograms are a bit like having your boob sandwiched between a Tupperware box and a metal plate.

  • I would gain a lot of support from social media. At the start of my treatment I created an Instagram account Cancerwithasmile to connect with other cancer fighters and keep me positive, I got so much encouragement and great feedback from this I started my ‘Cancer with a smile’ blog.

  • Radiotherapy only takes few minutes but you need to go every day for a several weeks. Its painless at the time but after a couple of weeks your skin gets irritated a bit like sunburn and it makes you tired. It was so much better for me than chemo. Most radio treatment travels through your body. You have and entry point and exit so you don’t leave radioactive!

  • They give you tiny black dot tattoos to line up the radio machine in the exact same spot every time.

  • Hormone therapy for breast cancer lasts 5-10 years and actually stops the estrogen in your body which then puts you into early menopause with lots of pretty rubbish side effects.

  • The support from my husband, friends and family was amazing. I have never felt more loved and cared for. My sister flew home from Australia to help us, my friends looked after my kids, brought me shopping, cleaned my house, walked my dog and kept me company.

  • It takes a team to fight cancer and I had a lot of good guys on my side.

  • Some of the people you think will be there for you aren’t but it won’t matter because people you least expect will show up for you.

  • Children are super resilient. They accept change super quickly and can even offer you support with cuddle and giggles.

  • Having critical illness cover was the best thing my husband talked me in to.

  • Before cancer I was so busy all the time trying to be the best mum, best wife and best business owner I could be and it was running me in to the ground. Having cancer has made me focus on what’s important and spend more time on me doing simple things I enjoy like reading and yoga. Oh, and more holidays of course!

  • Investing in my own wellbeing makes me a happier better person all round.

  • Getting through such a hard time made me a more positive and confident person. I felt like if I could walk in to the playground with a shaved head I could do just about anything. It taught me to slow down and appreciate the little things.

  • I actually think having cancer has made me a better person!

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 3.44.48 PM
Testing different nipples used for reconstructive surgery
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