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Susan's story

Susan Kiely

Less than twelve months after losing her husband to myeloma Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer following a routine mammogram in February 2018. The operation to remove Susan’s breast found two new tumours. She was offered chemotherapy treatment on our Mobile Support Unit and jumped at the chance having seen the wonderful care her husband had received from Tenovus Cancer Care.

Meet Susan:

“Cancer seems to run in my family, my mum had it, her mother and grandmother, my auntie and two of my cousins have had cancer too but so far doctors have been unable to find a connection. My husband Kevin passed away in June 2017 after a long battle with myeloma.

“At the time of his diagnosis they were giving patients like Kevin four years to live but he got ten. They eventually stopped all of his treatment because there was nothing new to give him and I remember asking how long he had left at that time to be told he had just a week. The family came together at the weekend and Kevin passed away the following Tuesday morning with me right beside him.

“I got called in for a routine mammogram in February 2018 and received a letter two weeks later asking that I attend clinic; the test had found two spots that they were concerned about. A biopsy returned a positive result and I had the operation within two months. I was amazed at how quickly everything went. Two other tumours were discovered during the operation that hadn’t been picked up by the mammogram because they were so small. That’s four tumours altogether.

“When they said I had to have my breast removed I thought it’s not like I’m losing an arm or a leg. At my age I don’t need my boob and it didn’t bother me. I’d talked about having a reconstruction which involves an operation longer than the one to have the breast removed and arthritis may have been affected because the surgery involves the relocation of muscle tissue. After weighing up all the pros and cons I felt that I could just use a false breast and no one would know the difference anyway.

“After the operation the doctor advised that I do some gentle exercise to help it to heal but I went a little overboard and cleared out my shed. I ended up with a hematoma on my chest and had to have that removed surgically. My consultant told the staff and I regularly get ‘oh you’re the lady that cleared her shed’. I was reminded to stick to mild exercise after that.

“I needed chemotherapy and the doctor mentioned Tenovus Cancer Care’s Mobile Support Unit. I thought, fantastic! I grabbed the chance because it’s only two minutes from my house in Cwmbran. My husband Kevin had used the Mobile Support Unit for some of his chemotherapy treatment and had always described it as being in a five star hotel. The friendliness and efficiency of staff was, and has been brilliant.

“Coming to the Mobile Support Unit is more relaxing because you don’t have to worry about getting into a hospital car park. If you visit hospital regularly you tend to worry about that kind of thing. The unit is usually parked in a large open carpark space which is free to use. I can attend an appointment and be at home soon afterward with a cup of tea or lying down if I’m not feeling too good.

“I still had my own hair when I was looking for wigs. The assistant was wonderful and very complimentary. I’d thought about using the cold cap to preserve my hair but he suggested that I may feel more upset if I had tried to save my hair and it hadn’t worked. When you can control some aspects of your cancer diagnosis it can help you to feel a little better so around my second treatment I got the clippers out and shaved it off. I was satisfied that I’d waited and did it when I wanted to do it. It felt good that way. The funny thing is I always used to part my hair on the right side but since it’s grown back it’s swaying to the left and I’m almost thinking I’ll put the parting on the left side now. I’m definitely going to be embracing the new grey.

“I didn’t have my husband’s support when I was going through my cancer but I’ve had amazing support from my sons and daughters, and a lot of humour from my grandchildren. They’ve said ‘grandma, you look like an egg’ or ‘grandma, look like a vampire’ because I’ve had no hair but it’s brought a lot of humour to it for me. You feel sorry for yourself at times but you have to remember that you aren’t alone; some people have it worse, some have it better. You just have to enjoy life”.

If you'd like to find out more about our Mobile Support Units, or any of our cancer support services, click here or call us on 0808 808 1010.