PUBLISHED ON: 7 July 2018

When Ruth was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 27, she was worried about what it would mean for her relationship. She shares how her experiences have taught her to be open and honest with others.

Ruth travelling

I thought I had someone else's results

I was 27 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I'd found a tiny lump, only a few millimetres wide. I went to the GP, who said it probably wasn't anything serious. We agreed that I should get it checked, just in case.

I was referred to a consultant, who said the same thing as the GP. I had a biopsy and two weeks later went back in for the results.

I had been dating Nicola, who is now my wife, for six months. I told her that she didn't need to worry about coming with me to the appointment. I was sure it would be fine. Everyone had told me it would be.

The nurse called about four people through for their appointments. Another women called Ruth came up at the same time as me.

When I went in, the nurse told me they had found breast cancer. I was in complete disbelief. I asked, 'Are you sure it's not the other Ruth?' But they were my results. It didn't seem real.

The main thing I remember is asking, 'Am I going to be OK?', and the nurse replying, 'Yes'.

I felt guilty for feeling OK

I ended up having a lumpectomy and six weeks of radiotherapy. Throughout my treatment I didn't feel ill. I was still able to cycle to the hospital for my appointments.

I used to hide my bike helmet before going into the room. Everyone else was visibly unwell. I felt guilty for feeling OK.

I wasn't sure my relationship would survive it

I debated telling Nic about my diagnosis. We hadn't been seeing each other very long, and Nic had lost her mum to breast cancer two years before we met. I was hesitant about putting her through that experience again.

I wondered if I should call the relationship off. I wasn't sure we would survive it.

At the time she lived in Edinburgh and I lived in Glasgow. I had plans to drive to visit her the day I was diagnosed. When I finally called and told her, she simply replied, 'When are you getting here?'

She went above and beyond to support me throughout my treatment.

We never had any difficulty as a gay couple

We were quite conscious of being open about our relationship. Every appointment we went to I would introduce Nic as my partner and make it clear who she was to me.

We never faced any difficulty. As soon as people realised we were together, she was treated the same as anyone else would have been in that situation.

Ruth and Nic in Bolivia

We went on an adventure

I was saving up for travelling when I met Nic. It was a plan that had stalled because of my diagnosis. But halfway through my treatment, I became preoccupied with the idea of selling everything and travelling the world.

I told Nic my plan. We agreed that if we hadn't thought of a reason not to do it by the next day, we'd go. The day after, we started planning to sell our flats to fund our new adventure.

When my radiotherapy finished we went on a 10-month trip, visiting everywhere from South Africa to Australia.

I put off dealing with what I had gone through

When we came back from travelling, Nic and I got married, and soon we started thinking about having a family.

But it was once we had returned that everything hit home.

I had put off dealing with the after effects of treatment by leaving the country. Now I was having to come to terms with what I'd gone through.

Nic gave birth to our first son and later I became pregnant with our two twins. I started to worry about breastfeeding after my radiotherapy.

I reached out to Breast Cancer Care, whose Someone Like Me service put me in contact with a volunteer who had been in my position before. It was incredibly reassuring and helpful.

Talking to The Show models was invaluable

Last year, Nic put me forward to be a model in The Show Scotland. I had absolutely no idea what it meant until I went to the welcome day.

At the time, I was thinking about having risk-reducing surgery. Nic and I are both very breast aware and conscious of our risk factors. We had been discussing with my consultant about me having a bilateral mastectomy.

Because of The Show I met so many women who had been through a similar experience to me. Talking to them helped me come to a decision to have the mastectomy.

Ruth, Nic and their children

It's important to be honest

When I came out as gay, I learned how important it is to be honest and open about how you feel.

I think it's the same for breast cancer. If someone asks how you are, tell them truthfully. If you need help, ask for it.

Being honest with yourself and others makes everything so much easier. It helped me when coming out and guided me through any difficulties I faced because of my breast cancer.

If you're worried about the after effects of breast cancer treatment, you can speak to our trained volunteers who have had similar experiences through our Someone Like Me service.

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