Myth 2 – cancer is for the old
In 2017 I was diagnosed with secondary (aka metastatic or stage 4) breast cancer. I was 33. Since then I’ve literally lost count of the number of times I’ve been told I’m too young to have cancer. Cancer charities go out of their way to highlight young women are very unlikely to get breast cancer. One charity site told teenagers breast lumps are nothing to worry about 🤬. All I’ll say to that is I read a newspaper article today about a girl called Chrissy Turner who was diagnosed at 8 years old 😢💔. She hadn’t even purchased her first bra. I support not causing panic, but definitely oppose misleading people. I have also come across multiple stage 4 patients who had their symptoms ignored because of their age. This myth can literally kill.
People of any age or sex can get cancer. The tragic truth is that cancer is one of the few things in life that does not discriminate. Breast cancer is more common in older women but younger people can still get sick. Breast Cancer Care states approximately 5000 a month are diagnosed with breast cancer. They suggest that people under 40 represent 4 percent of cases. I’m bad at maths but that still sounds like a lot to me. Of course one person with cancer is one too many at any age.
There are some fantastic support networks out there like the Younger Breast Cancer Network, but there is in my opinion still a lot more that could be done to support younger patients.
One of the most traumatic parts of starting treatment was having to have my menopause induced. I’m ER+ so estrogen suppression is a must for me. On the Monday I had spots and was due to start my period that week. One Zoladex injection on the Tuesday and I was suddenly menopausal. I had no support with that for ages. I had 20+ hot flushes a day. I literally had no idea what was happening. Nobody had told me what to expect. When I asked for help, as I thought it was the cancer causing problems, my GP gave me Prozac which made me really ill. I lasted two days before I had to stop taking those drugs. They made my head kill for 8 days. Cancer pain had nothing on that headache 😢 My oncologist sent me for free acupuncture which has worked miracles. I now have hot flushes 2 or 3 times a week. No idea why it worked but it did. I still have stage 4 but at least I don’t feel like I’m boiling to death all day!
My palliative care nurse gave me an advanced directive form to complete. It was funded by Age UK 😭. At 33 that made me feel great – I still haven’t completed it!
My oncology unit has great entertainment for patients while they wait. Jigsaws, Jeremy Kyle and knitting magazines! So exciting (not)! I’d love to see a wider range of magazines or some games consoles! Now that would lower my stress. Being brutally honest I’d also love a couple of treadmills. That’s my idea of fun 💪. I know those things aren’t cheap but a girl can dream! Finally could there be a ban on asking if you are there with your parents? Every time I explain I’m the patient somebody inevitably tells me I’m too young to have cancer 😭.
These might seem like small issues but they add to the stress of dealing with cancer. In these cases just a little bit of extra support or a different form for younger patients would have made a huge difference to me. Thank goodness for social media!
Regardless of the issues, I’m living proof that the idea that breast cancer only impacts older people is a myth. I’m Kit and I’m #BusyLivingWithMets aged 34.