PUBLISHED ON: 8 April 2016

Living in hope

Ann Coxon was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in 2014. Eighteen months on, she describes her hope for the future.

A strange thing happened to me on Mother's Day this year. I got my period.

Not normally something to write home about, but after a year-long chemotherapy-related pause, and at the age of nearly 43, it took me by surprise.

I don't yet know if it will be a one-off, or whether my ovaries will manage to resume their normal function, or if my hormones will rise from menopausal levels for any length of time.

I was told at the start of chemo that it can take nine months or more for periods to return so I will have to wait and see.

Triple negative

Like too many younger women with breast cancer, I was diagnosed with triple negative disease, the sort that gets a bad press on the internet (Google if you dare and you will come across words like 'deadly' and 'highly aggressive'). Multi-focal, grade 3, relatively early stage, node negative, triple negative breast cancer, to be precise.

Though many clinical trials are taking place, scientists have not yet developed a targeted therapy to try to prevent recurrence or spread of triple negative breast cancer. This is basically what makes it so scary.

Our tumours are defined by what they are not (they’re not stimulated by the hormones oestrogen or progesterone, or the protein HER2). But not enough is yet known about what they are. What we do know is that triple negative breast cancer has a slightly higher likelihood than other types of spreading to another part of the body within the first three years after diagnosis, but if you make it to five years that possibility drops. We also know that certain types of triple negative respond well to chemotherapy.

So here I am, 18 months on from diagnosis, 12 months on from my last chemo, living in fear, and hope, having put all my eggs in one chemotherapeutic basket.

Hope

If love is a verb, a doing word, then so, I believe, is hope.

It's not something we simply feel, it's something we live out on a daily basis. It's surprising how many seemingly mundane daily events ask you to choose between hope and fear. Life after a cancer diagnosis seems to make that choice more apparent as we swing between extremes of hope and dread. Should I book that flight? Should I spend or save for an uncertain future? Should I eat that piece of cake, or is that somehow tempting fate?

Hospital teams encourage us to get on with life, to forget the whole ordeal for as long as we are NED (no evidence of disease), which is good advice, but it isn't easy.

I hope I will be one of the lucky ones. I hope I will make it through my five years. I hope I will be able to celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary, and my daughter's 10th birthday. I hope.   

Breast Cancer Care bloggers' views are their own and do not necessarily represent those of Breast Cancer Care.