Inspiring Stories - Mandy Macfarlane
My name is Mandy Macfarlane, I’m 40 years old working and living in Glasgow. I am married to Richy and have two children Chloe who is 20 and studying in Carlisle and Sam who is 6 and just about to go into primary 2.
In December 2009, at the age of 35, 8 months after the birth of my son I was diagnosed with primary breast cancer and then 3 days before Christmas I was then told that the cancer had spread to my liver.
It turns out that my pregnancy, the hormone surge, brought on my cancer. I never knew this could happen so when I found a lump months later I assumed it was due to breast feeding and did nothing about it for months before finally getting it checked and referred to the breast clinic. This assumption had now cost me my future.
Lying on the table, hearing the radiographer tell me that those spots on my liver were cancer and that the breast cancer had spread, I just cried "this can’t be happening to me, I’ve just had a baby".
I didnt even know what secondary breast cancer was, but I assumed it was bad. Unfortunately this assumption was right.
I was basically told by my breast cancer care nurse at the Beatson, on 23 December 2009 that I would die from cancer, that my illness was terminal. I was too stunned to cry and walked out of there saying "bitch, I’ll show her".
Though when I got home I couldnt speak the words to tell my family and friends so that job was left to my hubby. I just needed some time to myself and my family to try and process my thoughts. I had a rotten cold, because my immune system was trying to fight the cancer, badly, so I felt physically and mentally drained, How I got through Christmas I dont know, I think I was numb and just going through the motions to protect everyone but I vowed it would be the last Christmas that I would let cancer take from me.
My plan was to start chemotherapy straight away, 29th December 200, six rounds of FEC. The aim was to reduce the lump in my right breast as it was too big to operate on. There was no concern for the liver as the plan was to start me on hormone therapy to treat the liver, however my halfway scan showed that not only was the lump reducing but also the spots on the liver had also reduced and this was a "brucie bonus".
My chemo ended in April 2010 and now I was due for my mastectomy, reconstruction and reduction to the left breast on 18 May 2010, my mother in laws birthday, at least I had an excuse not to go visiting lol.
Being asked to lift myself off my bed the next day was one of the hardest things I’ve ever been asked to do. It was agony and I thought I may pass out with the pain but I stuck to the exercises I was given and kept going as I couldn’t let my kids see me in pain. They are what pushed me to keep my normal face on.
I took 7 weeks off work to recover, mostly I had to go back for financial reasons, to pay the bills.
It was also in May 2010 that I started on Letrozole, but because this drug only worked at its best on post menopausal women I had to be given a monthly injection of zoladex, to keep me in an artificial menopause.
Not ideal as now I was experiencing hot flushes, dryness in areas I didnt know could dry up, pelvis pain and the great old mood swings.
However I have now been living with secondary breast cancer being treated with letrozole for almost 6 years now and I’m extremely grateful for that and Im so lucky to reach the milestones I never thought I’d see, my daughter go to college, my sons first day at school, my tenth wedding anniversary and my 40th. No one has any guarantees for a future but Its hard knowing the milestones you probably will never see.
That said my consultant is hopeful that because all treatments worked first time, I will be just as receptive to future treatments, when letrozole stops working and then hopefully there will be new drugs and trials to keep me going for a bit longer.