Marieanne O'Shea's Brave Battle Back To Health

In taking to Down News, Marieanne said, “This is my third time in the Moonlight Walk. Last year I walked last year’s Moonlight Walk in the knowledge that I was waiting for an appointment with the breast clinic at the city hospital. To be honest I wasn’t overly worried. I had been there before and was diagnosed with fibromatanoma, a harmless breast lump, so I knew the drill and knew what to expect. [caption id="attachment_22348" align="alignleft" width="400" caption="Winners. Marieanne O'Shea, right, scooped up top titles earlier this year at the NI Essential Skills awards along with her friend Gloria Feenan-O'Neill."][/caption] “In March 2010, while working at a special needs care home, one of the residents nipped my left breast. It was sore and when I looked I noticed a lump. Being quite breast aware, I was conscious of the lump and pain but put it to the back of my mind as I believed it was the original, harmless lump.  But in June 2010 when the pain hadn’t gone away, I took myself to my GP for reassurance. She agreed with me but referred me to the hospital ‘just to be safe’. “Two weeks later I met the consultant and she agreed that it was more than likely the original lump.  She asked if I could come back in two weeks so I could get the appropriate checks and the lump removed, regardless of the results so that I wouldn’t find myself in this situation again. My husband Paul and myself were happy with what we had been told.  So on the 8th July last year I attended the hospital again for an ultrasound, a test I have had done twice before, but this time it was different. “As I walked through the doors of the mammogram suite, I had the most awful feeling. Paul was very upbeat and told me to wait and see what they’d say, but I knew. I had the tests and went back to see the consultant for the results. She told us there and then, ‘I’m so, so sorry,’ the consultant said, ‘The tests have detected a breast cancer,’ … words I never dreamed of hearing in my lifetime! “Our world crashed around us. I will remember poor Paul’s face for the rest of my life. He was trying to be brave for me, asking questions, but neither of us really hearing the answers. “Telling our families, our young sons who were just five and six, my daddy and brothers and all my in-laws, was quite possibly the hardest thing I have ever had to do. The children didn’t really understand what we were telling them, but we wanted to make them aware that things at home were going to be very different, that I needed an operation and then I would get ‘bad medicine’ which would make me very ill and my hair would fall out. And I wanted them to be confident about asking either myself or Paul questions about everything that was happening and going to happen. “My daddy, however, understood exactly what I was telling him. He had been through the whole process of cancer and chemotherapy before with my mummy a few years before. My mummy died in May 2007 of cancer and being the eldest child in our family and the only daughter and granddaughter, my diagnosis was like a kick in the teeth for him. “I had my surgery on Monday 2nd August 2010. The operation went quite smoothly. Fortunately I had quite large breasts so they were able to perform a partial mastectomy on the left side and a cosmetic reduction on the right. I was discharged on Saturday 7th August. “Chemotherapy was arranged to begin on 23rd August 2010. ‘Just six sessions’ sounded easy, but it was so far from easy. I met the staff, had a check-up with the doctor, signed the consent form and met the hospital hair dressers…. BOOM. I WAS GOING TO LOSE MY HAIR!!!! This was really happening. “The first chemo was absolutely awful.  No one could have warned me as to what I would feel like, how sick I would be – I couldn’t even walk.  It was horrendous but I got through it.  The next five sessions were equally as hard as the first. My hair began to fall out within a week and by the time I went for my second session I had no body hair at all. “I was determined to be finished for Christmas for the boys. I wanted it to be a normal, happy family Christmas. My last chemo was on Monday 13th December 2010.  What a day! I cried with excitement and relief. And I got my wish of a family Christmas. “Radiotherapy began on Wednesday 29th December 2010. I had to attend everyday for five and a half weeks, finishing on 2nd February 2011. That is a day I will never forget, it was the beginning of the end. The four of us, me, Paul and the boys went out for our dinner – a small celebration. “Since then I have had follow up appointments, review appointments, two further operations to heal a wound and am still receiving treatment for the wound. But the prognosis is good and I feel really well. My hair has grown back and every day I get stronger and more like myself. “Throughout the treatment I continued with my Access course through SERC in Downpatrick requesting work and assignments to be emailed home to me so I could continue learning and prepare for my future. And I’m glad I did! I was presented with three awards for my efforts including the Essential Skills Learner of the Year in Northern Ireland. I couldn’t believe it! They chose me, out of everyone in Northern Ireland! I was also the first woman to win it.  It was just a brilliant day. “I’m currently doing my final exams and hopefully will go on to become a midwife. In the meantime I’ve accepted a place at University for Cardiac Clinical Physiology and will begin in September.  It’s all beginning for me! “This year I’m walking the MoonLight Walk with 15 close friends and family dressed as Dalmatians (because you have to look after your puppies!).  Now having been through breast cancer myself and come out the other side, I realise the importance of the walk – not just the funds that we raise for Action Cancer’s vital breast screening service, but also the camaraderie and understanding it creates among the people you plan to do it with and the people you meet along the way. “This year’s MoonLight Walk will hold a special place in my heart.  So much has happened since the last walk. What a year!” Registration for the Ballygowan Pink Moonlight Walk is £20. Action Cancer is encouraging participants, where possible, to raise a minimum amount of £80 – a significant sum as it costs Action Cancer £80 to provide a mammogram.]]>