Sarah, from South Wales, was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years after losing her mum to the disease. She tells us how her family helped her through treatment, and how she's giving back by hosting an Afternoon Tea.
I knew something wasn't right
I found a lump on my right breast when I was 40. I knew something wasn't right. My mum died from breast cancer when I was 28, so I was aware that I needed to get it checked out.
My GP informed me that she would refer me for tests. I came out of the appointment in shock and immediately called my dad. He booked an appointment at a medical unit in Cardiff and two days later I went to the unit with him.
I thought it was a bad dream
I worked up until the day before my operation, trying to keep busy and not thinking about what was to come. I had seen what my mum had gone through, so I knew it wasn't going to be easy. I would wake up in the night, thinking it was a bad dream.
It was my first ever time in hospital, and I felt very alone. I cried all the way to the operating theatre.
Mum's death brought us all closer
I couldn't tell my two sisters at first, who are both younger than me. When I first found my lump they were both expecting my two beautiful nieces. I didn't tell them until I was sure that it was breast cancer. I was busy trying to come to terms with it myself – I barely even knew what day it was.
Once I did, they were amazing. We all live within a few minutes of each other and are very supportive of one another. I live alone, but during my treatment someone was always there to support me.
My dad's always been the rock for me
When I was diagnosed, my dad helped sort everything out. He had been through it with my mum, and later with his new partner too, who was also diagnosed. He researched things for me when I couldn't face it. When you're going through treatment you don't take all the information in, so it was great to have him there.
The wig shop was the same one I went to with Mum
During my chemo, I opted to wear the cold cap. My hair previously was long and thick, which I loved, so I wanted to try to prevent it from falling out.
Sadly, my hair started to fall out and I went looking for wigs with my sisters. The first shop I went to was the same wig shop I went to with my mum when she was going through her own treatment. I cried when they put the first wig on me. That whole experience was a very emotional time.
As I needed to try on more wigs, the second time a different shop arranged for the wigs to be brought to my house, and I felt much more at ease. I wore my wigs for nearly two years, which helped with my confidence as I wasn't ready to go out with my new, shorter hair.
Five years on, my hair has grown back and it is as long as ever.
I realised I was not alone
Everyone's experience of breast cancer is different. I had many bad days where I just wanted to be left alone. Despite all my friends’ and family's support, there were still moments when I felt incredibly lonely.
I attended a Young Women Together course in Bristol which was a turning point for me. I gained knowledge, rebuilt my confidence, learnt how to feel good about my new body and hair and met people going through the same experiences. Crucially, it made me realise I was not alone.
Afternoon Tea binds us all together
I will be holding my fifth Afternoon Tea this year in my office. It feels good to organise something myself and give back, and I'm lucky to work with such supportive colleagues. It's now an expected annual event!
The first time I hosted an Afternoon Tea was just after my diagnosis and nearly all of the food was homemade. There was so much, we were eating cake for the rest of the week!
Now, people let me know what they're making beforehand. We have savoury as well as sweet.
I also donate an Afternoon Tea hamper as a raffle prize, selling tickets to raise money. Everyone donates on top of that and loves to get involved. It's a day that binds the whole office together.
Join Sarah this July and gather your friends, family or colleagues for an Afternoon Tea for Breast Cancer Care.