My Pink Story | Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Everyone deals with cancer in one way or another, either directly or indirectly. Either way, it's unpleasant for everyone involved! This month is breast cancer awareness month, so I've decided to share my story. My pink story. I was inspired to write this after watching a video by Louise from Sprinkle of Glitter on YouTube, you can watch her video (here).

I just want to say that these are just my memories, things may not have happened exactly how I remember them but this is what I remember...

So my very first encounter with cancer was my granddad, he passed away from lung cancer many years before I was born, before my dad even met my mam, so to a certain extend it didn't really effect me. Except for the fact he wasn't there of course. When I was 16 (2011)  unfortunately my beautiful grandmother passed away from lung cancer too. Now that was hard. Up until then I had never lost anyone. She had suffered with emphysema for years and in the last few months of her life, she developed lung cancer.

But it wasn't until my granny, a truly incredible woman, developed breast cancer that I was truly effected by cancer. I can't really explain or properly describe how much she meant to me other than, well, she was my granny. My granny was a tough lady, been through a lot but always came out the other side smiling. I could sit here all day and write about how amazing and wonderful she was and it still wouldn't do her justice. She was truly an incredible woman. I think she developed breast cancer around Christmas 2008/2009. I was in first year of secondary school at the time. I'll never ever forget the day when my mam told me. I just remember being really shocked, I had obviously heard about cancer but it never entered my head that someone I loved could ever have to fight it.

SO a few years passed, I didn't notice much of a change to be honest, expect I went to the hospital a few times with my mam and granny for her treatments. I only really remember because we always went to pizza hut afterwards. The next vivid memory I have is October 10th 2011, I remember this day in particular because it was my birthday. My granny had had an operation to remove her breast. I remember travelling to the hospital after school with my mam. My granny was in good form and I remember leaving relieved, in my head I thought it was simple, the cancer was in her breast, they had just removed it so obviously now she'd be ok. And she was ok, she had a few sessions of radiotherapy and was given the all clear.

Unfortunately shortly just before Christmas the cancer came back and this time it was stronger and grew quicker. Because my granny was diabetic, they couldn't operate again as her skin wouldn't of healed quick enough and the chance of getting an infection was too high. Instead she underwent radiotherapy. Around this time, I decided it would be a great idea to go to Africa and climb the highest mountain, Mt.Kilimanjaro. I started training and was due to leave for Africa in June.

SO in January of 2012, I started training. We had to choose a charity to raise money for and for me it was a no brainer, cancer research, in particular breast cancer research. So while I was off climbing my mountains, my granny was facing much greater ones. Then she started to get really sick, she was moved into the hospital. I can't really remember how long she was there. I just remember that my routine was go to school, do homework, go to the hospital, then train on weekends.

In April 2012, I'm not sure whether she was actually getting better or she whether her health was staying constant but she came home. I remember my mam and I spending a full weekend going all around the country trying to get the proper chairs, toilets, shower seats etc all ready for when granny was coming home. And she did come home, she had a hospital bed and all the equipment at her house. My mam visited almost every single evening after work, I often went with her too.

I, the eternal optimist truly believed that she would get better. You see many years before this, I must of only been about 4 or 5 years old, she had had a massive heart attack. I was too young to understand this of course, all I knew was that granny was sick. I remember my dad trying to explain it to me one evening while my mam was in the hospital with her. He said something along the lines of "granny is in a dark place at the moment". So off I went and got my little art pack together and made my her a paper candle. I even remember getting two of the kitchen chairs and the sweeping brush. I put the sweeping brush between the two chairs, horizontally, wrapped a sheet of paper around it. My dad stapled it together and I started painting it with glitter, green glitter, purple glitter, blue glitter. I then coloured in a flame which my mam later cut out in the shape of a flame and stapled onto my candle.

In my mind it was so simple, she's in a dark place so let's light a candle and then it won't be that dark anymore. When my granny got better after the heart attack, she said she loved it of course and she put it only her kitchen dresser, where it still sits almost two decades later. Anyway now I'm rambling, my point is, she had always gotten better, no matter how bad things got, she always got better. This time however she didn't get better.

I remember my mam telling me one Tuesday morning, that granny had had a fall and granddad couldn't lift her up. She told me to take my brother to school and she'd ring with any updates. Usually I always do what my mam says (you know to a certain extent, I'm not claiming to be the perfect child by any account), but this time I just had a feeling it was different. I'd never seen my mam so scared. She didn't argue when I said I was coming with her. So we raced over to my grannies house, calling an ambulance on our way. We arrived before the ambulance, I don't remember much of what happened at the house, the next thing I remember is being in the ICU in the hospital, my granny had slipped into a coma, but had come out of it just as quick.

While my mam and uncle were sorting things out with the doctors, I was left with my granny. This was the last conversation I ever had with her. I'm not even sure what it was about, I think she asked about my french test that was coming up. I just remember holding her hand really. She was put into a private room that evening and my mam started making phone calls to all our relatives to come and say goodbye. She passed away on the Wednesday night. I remember waking up on the Thursday (not knowing yet that she had passed on) to my dad in the sitting room, which was strange because he was always in work for like 8am, no one had called me for school, so I knew something was wrong. The next few days were a blur.

She died just 6 weeks before I left for Africa. While on the mountain, my body found it really hard to adjust to the altitude. On summit night/day, I was struggling like really struggling. I had started hallucinating and it was the strangest thing I've ever experienced. I had lost both of grandmothers in the last year and when I was on the mountain, I had completely forgotten they'd died and kept thinking I could see them further along the trail. I maintain to this day, they only way I got to the top was with their help. They say everything happens for a reason and I'm a firm believer of that. Perhaps she died at that time so that she could help me when I needed it the most, maybe that's just something I tell myself for comfort.

My point for writing this post wasn't to blabber on about arguably one of the most difficult times in my life, it was to raise awareness. We need to find a cure. We need people to get tested regularly. I really hope that this post reaches those who need to read it. If you're due a check up or a scan please go. Stop putting it off and just go, it could just save your life and save your loved ones suffering.

I miss my granny. I miss her hugs. I miss her giving me a sneaky fiver when my parent weren't looking. I miss the afternoons we spent baking. I miss her taking my side over my mams. I miss her cooking at Christmas. I miss everything about her. 

Here is a link to the Irish Cancer Society where you can donate here Or you can simply text CANCER to 50300!

Erin X
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