MY MOTHER died of breast cancer when I was 17 – she was 43. She was raised in an orphanage and didn’t know her family history so when I turned 40, I was advised by my doctor that I could request annual mammograms, writes army spouse Louise Simpson.
The process was difficult – I had to have counselling before the health service agreed and being forced to contemplate your mortality when you have small children is no easy thing. However, I got through it and committed to having checks on a yearly basis.
The problem was that each time we moved I had to start the process all over again – I couldn’t transfer the permission because each new location did things differently and it felt like each time I had to prepare a sales pitch for the right to have this done.
We moved four times during my 40s. Each time was the usual upheaval: leaving friends, making new friends, sorting out the houses, settling the children in and finding a new job. Let’s face it, the needs of an army spouse often come a long way down the list of priorities. And if I’m going to consider my needs then I am totally up for a facial but could really do without having my breasts smashed into a metal press!
So, I let it slide, along with the cervical smears. And once I got past the age that my mum died, I felt a little more invincible and it became easier to drop it.
Clearly this story is only going in one direction – last summer I found a lump. The NHS were truly awesome and very quickly I was diagnosed with several different breast cancers (when I commit, I really commit!) and a month later I was recovering from a mastectomy. I spent the next six months getting treatment and reconstruction and will now be on drugs for the foreseeable future.
I’m not suggesting that this was avoidable, but I do question how less severe my cancer would have been if it had been spotted earlier.
So, my advice to anyone reading this is to find the time for screening. Push through all the needless bureaucracy that makes being an army spouse just that little more difficult. It could be a game changer!