Survivor Story: Michelle Teale
Hi, my name is Michelle.
I live in Leicester in the UK. I’ve lived with cancer in my family for a long time. Both my mum and dad had cancer together at the same time back in the ’80s. My mother survived Ovarian cancer only to be re-diagnosed in her 70’s with breast cancer. She is now 84 years young and cancer-free. My father passed away in 1984 at the age of just 54 after a two-year battle. He was my hero. My mum re-married but lost my step-father in 2001 from lung cancer.
As I laid in bed back in April of this year I felt quite a large lump in my breast. I was due for my diabetic check-up the following week and asked my doctor to take a look. I was in the breast care clinic that Sunday. Keep in mind my last mammogram was only done in August 2018 and it was clear. I had a new mammogram and then an ultrasound where they could see a large mass in my right breast, I think I knew then before they said anything that it was cancer.
I’ve had lumpy breasts all my life but this was different. It was confirmed virtually straight away, but we were waiting for the biopsy results to tell us what kind of cancer it was.
My mother was truly gutted, as she thought I’d been missed by this disease. It was totally unrelated to my parents’ cancer. I had a 7.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 cm ductal tumor. It hasn’t spread, but one lymph node was suspicious. I’m at the halfway point of my chemotherapy treatment, followed by surgery and maybe radiation therapy. My HER2 receptor came back negative.
My hair started to fall out at the end of the first cycle of chemotherapy, so I made the brave decision to go bald which was the best thing I did as it gave me extra strength. I have wigs and scarves but I actually prefer bald. I always try to look at the positives, I save on hair products and no need to pluck my eyebrows! Chemotherapy is definitely tough, that’s no lie, but “Cruella” (what I call my tumor) appears to be shrinking, so I know its working!
I am so fortunate to live in the UK and to have access to the National Health Service. They have been fantastic. The chemo suite is full every time I visit with brave patients fighting this disease. This disease turns your life upside down, but I have met some very inspirational people so far. I have a massive social media network of support and an amazing husband, work colleagues, and family. Without him and them, things would be much harder.
Our partners have to go through this too, and sometimes we forget how much they are suffering watching their loved ones go through this journey. They have to watch as we undergo treatment but feel so helpless. The emotional rollercoaster that is breast cancer can put a great strain on your relationship. As a couple, we try to talk all the time about how we are feeling as this process goes on. We find this helps us understand how we are both feeling.
My wings have certainly been clipped, and for the first time in my 57 years, I’ve had to put me first and listen to my body. I will come back a much stronger and better person than when I started this journey.