A mother of three has shared the devastating impact cancer has had on her life and the lives of her family members.
ary Walsh, from Kildare, was breastfeeding her baby daughter last June when she discovered a lump on her breast.
The 39-year-old, originally from Co Mayo, is married to Pat and the couple have three young children together, Saoirse (6), Miles (3) and Cadhla (19 months).
“I was breastfeeding Cadhla at the time, she was about 10 months old and like I’ve never been someone to check themselves or anything, but I just happened to do it one evening after breastfeeding her and I have one Knots felt,” she told Independent.ie.
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“Because there is a history in my family, there is a BRCA gene in my family, which means you have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.”
“My mother died of ovarian cancer and my aunt had ovarian cancer and breast cancer so I just felt like I should get it checked out so I went to my GP and because of the history he referred me to St James.”
Ms Walsh tested negative for the high-risk BRCA gene, but was diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease known as triple-negative breast cancer in August last year.
“So it took between the end of June and mid-August to get all the different tests and everything diagnosed for me. I was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in mid-August,” she said.
“It’s one of the more aggressive ones, it’s just chemo that really works with that, so you have to get chemo if you’re triple negative.”
Ms Walsh started chemotherapy in October. She said: “I had a really tough time in the beginning between October and Christmas.”
“I finished that and transitioned to one that was less harsh from January through the end of February.”
Ms Walsh underwent surgery on Tuesday for a complication and will then start radiation therapy for a month in six weeks
“I was taken for surgery so I hope that gets resolved. Some kind of liquid has built up so they have to go back inside to try to drain it so hopefully everything will be fine.
“It will be May or June when it’s all over I guess.”
Ms Walsh said she is feeling well at the moment but was concerned about receiving the results of her recent surgery.
“I feel great, I felt really bad about this chemo before Christmas, it’s called AC, they actually call it the red devil because it comes in two big red syringes,” she said.
“But it obviously does the job because just a few weeks after I did it I couldn’t really feel the knot anymore.”
“Even though it’s awful and you lose your hair and everything, it works. But I just felt pretty bad for those few months from October to December. I didn’t really have any energy but I’ve been fine since the New Year, the chemo was fine, like you get tired occasionally but nothing compared to how I was before Christmas.”
“I suppose, you know, just worry a bit, I won’t know the results of the surgery for two weeks from Tuesday. So just be a little concerned that it may have spread elsewhere, especially with triple negative it has a tendency to spread elsewhere.”
“It’s hard with three young children, and with that family history, I would always be a little concerned.”
Ms Walsh said she developed a very close relationship with the nurses at St James’ Hospital during her treatment.
Ms Walsh said her eldest daughter, Saoirse, 6, found it difficult once she started losing her hair.
“Saoirse is a little bit better informed, I never used the word cancer because I didn’t want to freak her out because she’s in older infants and I was afraid she’d go to school and someone might say, ‘Oh my grandma is died from it. You know kids don’t actually have a filter,” she said.
“But I told her mommy had a lump in her breast and they would give me medicine and she would take that away but I would lose my hair. So she has some understanding.”
“I think the hair thing was probably a bit difficult for her, so I got a book that was recommended to me, about a mom who’s losing her hair, and I felt like that helped, me.” read that with her in the beginning and got her involved.”
“She was there when I shaved my hair, Miles doesn’t really get it but he knows I’m sick.”
Ms Walsh said her husband Pat has to take a lot of time off before Christmas while she undergoes chemotherapy.
“He found it hard leading up to Christmas because those few months have been just so awful and just to see me be a bit of a wreck and obviously see someone lose their eyebrows and eyelashes, it’s not pretty,” she said.
“But he’s been really good and it’s really just everyday life when you have kids, like the logistics, but we have a great support system. Obviously he’ll be worried about me until I know for sure.”
Ms Walsh said she was so grateful to the Irish Cancer Society and the support they have given her.
“I got the volunteer car service every week and it was just so amazing that these people put in so much time every week and also wait for you while you get treatment,” she said.
“Some days I was in the hospital for eight to 10 hours and they just wait around outside, so they give up on their day, so that’s really good service.”
https://www.independent.ie/news/i-was-breastfeeding-one-night-and-i-felt-a-lump-young-mum-shares-her-experience-of-being-diagnosed-with-breast-cancer-41486071.html “I was breastfeeding one night and felt a lump” – the young mother tells of her experience with the diagnosis of breast cancer