A Young Mom’s Battle with Breast Cancer
Making Memories by Detrice Matthews
Detrice Matthews shares her story about being a young mom with Breast Cancer
Detrice Matthews is a young mother of two, from Leeds, England. She lives with her husband and children in a town where she has returned to after years of travelling and working in London. At the time that she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Detrice was only 32 years of age. She has since gone on to write a personal blog about motherhood and dealing with her illness, which has won recognition at National Awards and helped spread awareness of breast cancer in young women.
It has been over a year now since I was diagnosed with breast cancer but it doesn’t seem like it was yesterday. If I rewind to that one moment in time, I can remember it as clear as crystal.
It was December 2014 and the run up to Christmas time. I was busy, so busy with a million things to juggle on a daily basis. As it so happened, a few weeks earlier I had been to the doctors to have a small lump checked out. It was not in a worry as such, however, it had changed shape somewhat and after a comment from my husband who has also noticed it, I decided that it was better to be ‘safe than sorry’. Even when the doctor had confirmed that he felt it too and that I was not imagining it, I still did not let it rest on my mind as I rushed back to work having been given a referral to the Breast Clinic. The days came and went, and just like that…the day had arrived.
At the clinic, the first lady I saw was a trainee and she asked if she could go through the standard questions with me and examine me. Yes, I am young, no I don’t smoke, no I’m not overweight, yes I (somehow) managed to breastfeed my two babies etc. My answers to these questions somehow gave me a naivety about the coming events. Upon examination, she too felt the lump but assured me that it was small, and that it moved upon pressing it, and that I was young so to try not to worry. We repeated this scenario with the consulting specialist who sent me for an ultrasound and a mammogram straight away. Finally, it was when the nurse who carried out the ultrasound who told me that something was there and that it wasn’t all ‘in my imagination’…that it slowly began to dawn on me. She took extra time to capture the image of all three lymph nodes under my arm that she needed, because as she explained she was a perfectionist. Then the mammogram came and went, and I was told that we would need to do a second mammogram as something wasn’t quite clear. The specialist had requested that we repeated it, and then I just knew. Finally, I was sent for a core needle biopsy, six hours later. Eventually, I saw the consultant again. All of my fears were confirmed and I could tell straight away in her eyes and her demeanour there was something there, but she was confident that we would get ‘it’ all sorted out. I was to return the following week for the official results.
D – Day
Oddly the day began like any other. As a young mum, I had always found first thing in the morning to be quite challenging. I struggled like most mums, with the school and nursery run, trying to get everyone out of the door and trying to do my own hair so that I might look presentable for work. On the day I was diagnosed, I had managed all of those normal morning things, but instead of driving to work I headed to the hospital again to find out the results from the previous weeks. It was around that point that everything began to slow down, almost like everything was getting stuck in slow motion. I waited in the reception of the Breast Care Unit, trying to enjoy the moments of peace and actually having time to read a magazine – but I was shaking. Even though I knew the answer before I was told, I was still shaking. In the room, I found my consultant on her day off, who looked me straight in the eye and delivered her diagnosis.
Even though I knew the answer before I was told, I was still shaking.
The next few hours were a bit of a blur, but I remember a few things. On the way home I got stuck in traffic, and I was late to pick my little boy up from school (which is not an option for school-age children). When I finally arrived at his school, he was in floods of tears and all on his own. I’d let him down and I just wanted to sit and cry too. There was no time for tears though, I shook myself and headed straight to pick up my little girl from the nursery. In that moment in time, on that day, all the little things became much more important and all the stressful things became, well, insignificant. From that day, I knew that every single kiss good night or cuddle or game might become a memory and memories are so important when children are growing up, they make you into the person you become.
Fast forward to today…and I have recovered from the mastectomy operation that I opted for. I have done the physiotherapy to regain all the movement lost in my arm after the lymph node removal. I have lived through the rounds of chemotherapy. One. By. One. I have cried and I have smiled (admittedly there has been a fair amount of tears) and most importantly I have learned some valuable things.
Children are the best medicine. My children have kept me going throughout. They helped me keep it together from the beginning and they have helped me get out of bed every day through my recovery.
Family and friends are invaluable in providing ongoing support and a shoulder to cry on when needed.
Never take things for granted, and I mean the everyday monotonous things such as going for a walk.
Friendships can be found in the most arduous of times.
Bravery is often not an option; it is something you become when faced with no alternative.
You see the thing is when I found out about my diagnosis, I could handle the facts in part because I think I already knew that ‘it’ was there. But the realisation that I may not be there to see my children grow up as a mother was the real kicker. And so I began to write my thoughts down as a personal blog. I used it as therapy for myself, to help me sleep. I wrote to perhaps help others who were going through the same thing, to give them something to hold onto. And most importantly, I wrote to give my children a real understanding of who their mummy really is.
“Just one moment in time can change your life forever.”
Just one moment in time can change your life forever. I have learned that the amazing thing about having children is that they kept me going. They don’t stop, they go on and on, their energy and enthusiasm have no end. Children still have all their everyday needs regardless – and when you are broken and on your knees, they always oblige with a smile and a cuddle.
Detrice is working on a sweater in partnership with Selfish Mother which is available at www.thefmlystore.com – proceeds of the jumper will go to The Haven which is a breast cancer charity organization.