Facing my fear of breast cancer – Janice Gronow

The day I was diagnosed with cancer, is the day my world stopped still. Life as I knew it would never be the same, or would it? This is a club I never sought to be part of, but with a diagnosis of the big C, you become a fully- fledged member of the cancer club. I can think of a few choice words to describe it! Being part of this group generally gives you the right to: Blame all irrational behaviour on cancer. Think life is totally unfair. Throw caution to the wind and treat yourself to that expensive designer handbag or holiday.

My diagnosis was quite bizarre!

It was on a celebratory weekend away with a friend who had made a full recovery from breast cancer. It was ironic because the following day I was to have a routine mammogram. Was an angel looking down on me, needless to say, alarm bells started ringing!

As a result of my mammogram, being recalled and undergoing various ultrasound and biopsy procedures, the dreaded day arrived to receive my results. For me, waiting for the test results was the hardest part of my journey.

As soon I entered the quiet room and saw my consultants face and the MacMillan nurse sitting on the bed, I knew my worst fears had come true. I had breast cancer, a grade 2 invasive ductal carcinoma. This put to rest any healthy relationship I had with my body. How can it be when there is no breast cancer in the family and I keep myself fit and active teaching FLexercise classes 5 times a week?Janice Gronow

Inherited breast cancers

It surprised me to learn inherited breast cancers are less common than one thinks. One in eight women in the UK will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. For men, it’s 350. I fall into the more common category; women who are aged 50 and over. In addition to these statistics there are a bewildering number of different treatments. My pathway was to have a lumpectomy, lymph node removal, followed by radiotherapy. I knew I couldn’t change my situation, so how was I going to deal with having cancer? For my own sanity, I knew I needed to be positive. Breaking the news to family and friends was distressing. It’s also difficult when you are in the public eye, telling my class members, many I have known for the past 30 years was equally hard.

Exercise and Breast Cancer

Continuing my exercise regime was vital to my recovery. It also made me feel normal and less anxious. I can’t stress the importance to start basic arm and shoulder movements as soon as you can after surgery. This helps to prevent long term problems with posture and stiffness.  Evidence also shows that exercise can help reduce treatment-associated fatigue. I can vouch for this, tiredness and weakness are recognised as the most common side effects of treatments, this is positive news that exercise can help combat this.

Before I started my radiotherapy, I was given a planning appointment where I had some scans to determine where to position the machine that delivers the high-energy rays. Also, a large tub of cream to apply to stop the skin from becoming red and sore, like sunburn.

With permanent little tattoos dotted over me, I feel very trendy now. This was to ensure the treatment hits the precise area. I will always recall my first treatment, with arms above my head and everything on display, I felt self-conscious and exposed. The realisation dawned on me, this was going to my daily routine for the next month. Holding my breath for 25 seconds so the machine zaps you in the correct place seemed an eternity, but before I knew it, it was all over.

Returning back to my FLexercise classes was scary, but at the same time a real tonic which helped me take back control. Everyone will deal with their treatment differently, but it’s important to stay true to yourself. Cancer can change things physically and mentally but try not to let it change who you are as a person. I remind myself that I beat cancer, so if a slightly broken body is the payoff, then I came out on top!