• Ruth Branagh for ELAN Stories

Ruth's Story

I’m Ruth and I was diagnosed with E+ breast cancer in July 2016 when I was 46. I had discovered a lump

in my right breast in March but it seemed to come and go and sometimes it felt big sometimes small so I

really didn’t think it was anything to be worried about. I eventually called the GP in early July and she

referred me to the breast clinic. The surgeon took a good look and thought there was nothing to worry

about and didn’t think it was cancerous. He said they’d need to do a needle biopsy and would let me

know the results in two weeks. I wasn’t particularly worried as I didn’t think it was going to be cancer.

When I went back in for my results I was not ready for the diagnosis. A new surgeon delivered the

devastating news in a very matter of fact way and I felt my world go in to slow motion. I was struggling

to take in what she was telling me and suddenly felt the tears coming. My daughter was there for

support and I was so relieved as she could take in better what I was being told.

My head was just spinning out of control; thinking the worst.
My birthday 2016 with my children, Jemima and Joe. Just a few weeks before my chemo started.

There then followed months of uncertainty with treatment but I opted to have surgery first as I was

concerned that I wouldn’t be as strong and able to deal with surgery if I had chemo first. I’m so glad I

made that decision as chemo was horrendous and in the end I only managed 4 cycles instead of the

recommended 6. I struggled with mental health through chemo and felt extremely low. I began to lose

feeling in my fingers and toes and the Oncologist agreed to stop the treatment as it could be nerve

damage. Thankfully the feeling has returned.

My first chemo session January 2017
Just after my wig fitting after losing my hair due to chemo

I was put on tamoxifen although opted for a bilateral salpingo oophorectomy so as I would be in surgical

menopause my medication was switched to anastrazole. I really struggled to take these endocrine

therapies as they made me feel so awful, joint aches and feelling dreadful. I opted to stop taking them

completely. The Oncologist did feel that I was high risk and should continue with the treatment as I had

had to have lymph nodes removed due to cancer spreading to my lymph. However, I chose quality of

life over quantity. Since then I have also fought for and obtained estrogel estrogen gel to deal with

menopause symptoms. I feel so much better in myself and applying the gel has made a massive

difference to my life.


I was bitterly disappointed with the lack of choice for mastectomy underwear. I have always loved nice,

matching sets and feel that if you feel great in your underwear it really sets up your outfit. Trying to find

something that matched my personality was really hard, if not impossible. There were rows upon rows

of pretty, lacy, colourful, trendy underwear for ‘normal’ ladies but the post surgery aisle was black,

white or skin tone. Not a scrap of lace to be found and all very functional and uninspiring. I did get very

upset as I felt it was all so unfair. I didn’t ask for this diagnosis, the mastectomy was life saving surgery

and to add insult to injury I now had to wear the most old fashioned bra if I was to look anything close to

my usual self. There was definitely a gap in the market for pieces that were bright, sexy and made the

wearer feel a million dollars. And why not...

We have all been through so much and deserve to feel special.

I am on the waiting list for a diep flap reconstruction and I’m really not sure if I will go through with it

given what is involved but it feels like it’s the last piece of the puzzle to go full circle in this journey. I

have tried to keep positive throughout as I think having the right mindset about these sort of things is so

important. I was in a job that I had been desperate to get out of but didn’t know how.

Being diagnosed with cancer gave me the kick I needed to stop working, concentrate on getting better and then start planning the future I want.
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