Madeline's Story

My name is Madeleine Mulgrew I am 47 years old a mother of 4 and grandmother of 5 I was diagnosed with cancer on the 1st June 2001.

To say it was a shock would be an under statement I was devastated, terrified, angry, lonely, frustrated, depressed, anxious and in total despair. I was about to lose my breast at the point of diagnosis I just wanted to get rid of it take my breast off get rid of my cancer and everything will be fine and from a medical point of view every thing was fine but from a psychological point of view everything was far from fine.

All of a sudden I felt that my life had changed but no body else's had I didn't know how to deal with my cancer I didn't know how I wanted other people to deal with my cancer Would I survive this? How long did I have left? Were my consultants telling me the truth? I could write a book on the vicious cycle of emotions that I have gone through and how one fear fed of another and how attitudes and behaviour of others impacted on my recovery. But 4 years on I am well and although I had many dark tearful fearful days I can share some of the things that helped me to recover and to deal with all the fears isolation loneliness and despair.

I love my breakfast for me this is my time and every morning at breakfast for about 3 years I cried into my tea-cup. This was my time when I allowed myself to feel sorry for me when I grieved for the loss of my breast when I vented my anger at the injustice of my altered body image when I allowed myself to be grateful that I had lived to fight another day and when I wiped my tears and battled on .Now I realise that one of my biggest mistakes was not telling the people around me how I was feeling often I would put on this big brave front and pretend everything was fine because in a way I felt I had to be strong for every one else and I often gave the impression I was coping with my cancer but inwardly I was falling to pieces sometimes talking is the best medicine but if we don't tell people how we are really feeling then it can be difficult for them to know how to help.

Asking for help can be hard especially if you have always been an independent person but it is a small price to pay for the support and love that others will be only too willing to give at the same time it is important to realise that not every-one will know what to do or what to say so talking about your illness is really important. Use your health care team, they are trained and are very willing to support and help you through your cancer journey.

Think positive be positive, give yourself permission to be selfish and to think about you how am I going to deal with my cancer? How do I want to deal with my cancer? Who do I want to accompany me on this journey? Support comes in many ways and from many different places some of the ways to get support are

Find a really good friend one that you can phone / contact at any time who will allow you to be yourself in that particular time in that place, There are many different organisations and support groups a good way to find one that is right for you is to use this website where you will find a variety of information, support, useful links and other positive information and support.

No one ever said a cancer diagnosis is an easy journey but it is a journey and that journey for some more than others can be an especially difficult hard journey your cancer journey is a unique experience for you but there are others who can make that journey with you if you choose to let them accompany you we do not have to go it lone. It is worth remembering that the people in your world who love you are finding it difficult too and sometimes people do not behave in a way that we expect them too but love them anyway and allow them to cope and adjust at their own pace and in their own time.

I realise now 4 years on that I had just been given the gift of a life changing experience but no one had given me instructions on how to manage this gift. I call it a gift and for some of you who may be in your early diagnosis this will be hard to understand but for me what could have been a negative life changing experience has turned out to be the most positive life changing experience that I would never have believed possible. I did not ask for my cancer and I certainly did not want it but today I can truthfully say I would not change my experience for anything. Yes many times I wake up in the morning and think I would like to forget I ever had cancer but with so many people being diagnosed and all the publicity that cancer gets it can be very difficult to forget. But what we can do is support each other, share our experiences and stay positive.

Madeleine