This year, Nordens will be celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Day on 21st October 2022 with more reason than previous years. Many of our staff will be wearing pink to raise awareness for breast cancer and the over 2 million people diagnosed with the disease globally each year.
Cancer in general is likely to affect us all in some capacity or another in our lifetime. It makes us so proud that one of our own, the incredible and brave Paula Webb who’s our Client Success Manager, has decided to share her story of breast cancer and the trials that come with facing the deadly disease…
Tell us a bit about your story and your experience with breast cancer?
I was one of the lucky ones in that I was diagnosed early. I was sent for a mammogram after going to the doctor to pick up a referral letter for my daughter. The doctor stopped me to ask how I was getting on in our new house. I then casually mentioned a pain in my left side.
He told me to check, and I got an appointment through within 9 days. I then had the mammogram and was further asked for a scan. This led to a biopsy and then the dreaded and very emotional consultation.
I’d gone from ‘it’s just to check’, to ‘it’s probably nothing’, to a full cancer diagnosis. I have to admit my consultant was amazing. He explained everything and within 2 weeks I was having my mastectomy.
Unfortunately, I was given no choice but treatment varies for each case. It isn’t black and white. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you will have the harshest of treatments. Yes it’s scary, yes it’s emotional, yes it’s the unknown and there is a huge cloud hanging over you, but the doctors and nurses are just amazing. They held my hand through the whole ordeal. Fortunately, with the early diagnosis, I came through the other side.
How important are initiatives such as ‘Wear It Pink’ in generating awareness and attention to breast cancer?
These initiatives are the key to early diagnosis. They make you aware, educate others and has made checking yourself become normal. It’s lost its stigma and element of shame but it’s allowed normality in talking about breast cancer. It has also made families aware, not just women. By normalising checking yourself, it greatly improves the chances of catching it early and making that all important call to the doctor. If you find a lump or have one of the symptoms it actually doesn’t mean you have cancer. There are many explanations for these, you just need to check and consult the appropriate health professional.
1 in 7 UK females will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Is enough recognition being done to educate people on breast cancer and how to properly check yourself?
There is always room for more education around any cancer. In a weird way, breast cancer is a cancer that does have really good publicity, amazing social media presence, and campaigns around checking yourself. It’s also a cancer that can show symptoms, for example a lump, so early detection can be fantastic.
Coppafeel is another fantastic organisation who promote all things breast cancer detection and support. Their social media campaigns are truly lifesaving and being exposed to them during my experience felt so reassuring and gave me confidence. There’s never too much education and awareness around these things. The more people that know, the higher the chance that more lives can be saved.
How important was it to have a secure support network around you during therapy?
I handled this differently to probably most people in that I actually closed down completely. It was hard to talk about it and I didn’t want to know any of the medical stuff, complete avoidance. The doctor was told, nicely of course, just to do his job to make me well and tell me after. I felt that if I didn’t tell anyone, it wasn’t happening, no one would treat me differently at work. I wouldn’t get those awkward conversations from people who meant well but didn’t really know what to say. Out of work, I didn’t want people I hadn’t spoken to for ages calling me and wanting the whole story, or offering help. I wasn’t ready to share my story with anyone outside my close unit and I certainly didn’t want to call anyone with a ‘by the way I have cancer’. I mean how do you actually tell anyone that kind of news?
What I eventually learned is that people do care. Friends, family and my work family didn’t want to be pushed away, they desperately wanted to help. This allowed me to properly come to terms with my diagnosis, through laughter, crying, talking, and shouting.
I learned, thankfully not too late, that allowing other people in gives you space to come to terms with your diagnosis. You then realise you are not alone, someone else has a story that enables you to cope and brings hope. You need the warmth, humour and love of people around you to get through the toughest of days.
If you could give one bit of advice to people going through a similar experience of contracting breast cancer, what would it be?
My one bit of advice would be to own it. It’s your diagnosis, your treatment plan, your story, your body, your recovery, your emotions, and your life. To share stories is so amazing, read about other people’s journey but it’s your cancer which is unique to you. It’s crucial to do whatever you need to do to get through it.
This is because we do get through it, some of us take a different journey, a longer and often different path but we get there. Things change; bodies, scars, medication side effects, your outlook on life. The resilience and determination persist though, helping you to get back to full health is our strength and is all part of the human spirit.
We hope this has outlined to you Paula’s story and experience with contracting breast cancer. If you’d like to know any further information on anything mentioned, or anything accounting related for that matter, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us at Nordens, where one of our trusted advisors would be happy talking you through your query.