Knowing I could help others helped me face breast cancer

PUBLISHED ON: 30 August 2017

When Hayley was diagnosed with breast cancer after finding a lump accidentally while lying down, she took to social media to share her story. Within hours her post went viral and was shared by people around the world.

She explains how she found her lump, the importance of early detection and how you too can promote breast awareness and save lives this Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Hayley sat up in a hospital bed, smilling at the camera

It was an accident finding the lump lying down. My hand just brushed against my breast and I felt an obvious lump. I wasn’t actively checking at that moment.

I did check often but it wasn’t every single month. It was only when I thought about it and it was always in the shower if I did check. I have a family history of people carrying an altered BRCA gene so I’ve become more breast aware after learning about this a few years ago.

After finding the lump I felt instantly terrified. I went to the doctors the same day and was referred to a breast clinic.

Everyone tells you it’s going to be fine but deep down you just want those results back and until you’ve got an actual answer, you can’t relax. When I was diagnosed and heard those words, I was completely devastated.

Because I had found the breast cancer early, it was treatable. I had a lumpectomy, followed by chemotherapy. I have finished my chemotherapy now and had a double mastectomy in August because I am a BRCA2 gene carrier. I’ve just been taking each day as it comes and listening to my body.

Early detection is so important

Every single person I spoke to about checking their breasts who was either my age or in their 50s or 60s wasn’t checking regularly or at all. If they were checking, it was mostly in the shower.

I was lucky to have found my lump so early and I think the situation would have been different if I hadn’t.

I felt it was important for others to know how I found my lump. I couldn’t physically feel it standing up and feel incredibly lucky I found it lying down by mistake. It really showed me the importance of checking carefully and often. If I could just help a couple of people find their lumps early then that would be the best thing.

So about three weeks after being diagnosed, I decided to share a message on Facebook using the hashtag #LaidBackLumps.

Knowing I had helped others helped me through my journey

My post went viral and was shared over 250,000 times by people all round the world.

People sent me private messages saying they’d found their lump early because of my post and were so grateful. It’s incredible and it certainly helped me through the beginning of my journey.

I was overwhelmed by the response and it was a positive way of seeing my diagnosis. Being diagnosed meant I could spread the breast awareness message and I hope I help people find their lumps earlier. It also gave me something else to focus on other than my diagnosis during that waiting period of having surgery and starting chemo.

Check regularly and go to the doctors

As a country we’re not very outspoken about our breasts or being breast aware. Our health is the most important thing in the world. Don’t underestimate the importance of checking regularly and going to the doctors. It may be embarrassing to go to the doctors, but wouldn’t you rather live a healthy life than not go to doctors.

You just have to act quickly, pluck up the courage, go and you may be thankful later.

Most changes aren’t because of breast cancer. If you find something different or new as Hayley did, report it to you GP. The sooner breast cancer is diagnosed , the more effective treatment may be.

Rachel Rawson, Senior Clinical Nurse Specialist at Breast Cancer Care

How you can promote breast awareness and save lives

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a worldwide campaign to highlight the importance of breast awareness and early detection. You can help raise awareness of breast cancer and save lives by holding a Big Pink.

Sign up today to get your free Big Pink kit, packed with everything you need to hold a Big Pink.

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