A Derriaghy woman hopes her inspirational story of a struggle with breast cancer will encourage other women to come forward for breast screening.
Sandra McCarry (45), a single mother-of-two teenage sons, went for her first breast screening at Action Cancer five years ago and was given the all clear.
A few years later in 2013 she was asked to attend another appointment as ‘further investigation’ was required.
“I was surprised when I received the letter but I didn’t feel overly worried at this stage,” she said. “I was aware that lots of women are referred on for further investigation and for the majority of them it doesn’t mean cancer.”
Sandra attended the appointment with her mother, and an x-ray of the left breast, showed there was a white round circle and later it was revealed, following a mammogram and biopsy, she had breast cancer which had spread to the lymph nodes.
“You get a whole lot of information at that stage but all I could take in was my diagnosis, to my shock and disbelief, I had breast cancer,” said Sandra.
The tumour was 2cm in size and surgery and a lumpectomy were needed. Her lymph nodes were removed and out of 27 lymph nodes removed, only two came back as being cancerous.
Sandra had six cycles of ‘often tough’ chemotherapy which was followed by a course or radiotherapy.
“The chemo got tougher as it went on,” said Sandra. “The first week of each round of chemo, I felt sick but the next two weeks I felt like socialising. The last three cycles were horrible. I developed mouth ulcers, my hair and nails fell out.”
She had a hair cut party with her friend then asked a neighbour to shave the rest of her hair.
“I continued to live my life during treatment, I decided to face it head on and be positive.” Sandra said. By May 2014 Sandra had her first mammogram since diagnosis and was told no worrying features were detected.
Sandra now feels like life is going back to normal. “It’s difficult for sons to watch their mum go through this but I have fantastic support. I cannot say how amazing my family and friends are.
“I would like to encourage other women to ring up and make an appointment and go. It could be the difference between living and dying.
If you are aged 40 to 49 or 70+ book your free breast screening online at www.actioncancer.org or by calling 028 9080 3344.