PERHAPS the first reaction of most 29-year-olds on hearing the news that they had breast cancer would be to ask ‘why me?’
But Laura Price from Shepley says she’s more concerned with getting through the therapy and resuming normal life.
Laura, now 30 and nearing the end of her treatment, said: “I haven’t spent much time thinking why this has happened to me – I just want to get on with it.”
What she has spent a lot of time doing is writing about her experiences – on Facebook for friends and family and on a blog for the international website The Huffington Post. She is also producing a blog for the Breast Cancer Care UK site.
Her posts are light-hearted and humorous. While a warts-and-all account of cancer treatment, they also aim to be entertaining and uplifting – as well as a resource for those going through the same experience.
“I have been very open and put things in that are quite embarrassing,” said Laura. “I don’t think people want to read about how bad chemo is or all the misery and depressing stuff. They want something funny and positive.
“I began writing them so that I didn’t have to break the news that I had cancer to everyone I knew one at a time; so I didn’t have to listen to the same things said back to me and hear of all the people they knew who had survived.”
But her blog became more than that – it became a way to air her thoughts on everything from wearing wigs to celebrating life.
Her approach has made her one of the Post’s most-read bloggers.
Her readership has gradually grown, with her last post attracting more than 14,000 readers. She has more than 1,000 followers of her original blog which is published on Facebook and blogging site Wordpress.
For former Greenhead College student Laura, writing has been an effective form of therapy.
“I love writing and it has been very helpful,” she said. “I have been getting some really encouraging comments and I’ve met a lot of new people through it.
“We’ve even set up a cancer survivors group and share our experiences.”
Laura, a former journalist who has a degree in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies from King’s College, London, was living and working in Buenos Aires, Argentina, when she first discovered a lump in her left breast.
Doctors there told her it was most likely benign but because her grandmother had suffered from breast cancer in her 30s she decided to seek a second opinion.
“I knew I was moving to a new job in Ireland so when I got there I paid to see a GP and she sent me to the hospital,” said Laura, who helps to run Facebook’s Latin American user support team.
“I had a six-week wait to see a consultant and then another four-week wait for another ultrasound, biopsy and mammogram.
“Everyone kept saying it was probably benign but by the time I got my diagnosis, four months after I found it, the lump had doubled in size.”
She got the shocking news that she had an invasive ductal carcinoma in June this year and underwent an operation to remove the lump and surrounding tissue.
“It was a shock after so many people had told me they didn’t think I had cancer,” she said.
Her first reaction was to telephone her mum and dad, Christine and Tony, and make her way back home to Huddersfield. Because she had private medical insurance she chose to go to the Christie, a cancer specialist hospital in Manchester, for treatment.
After removal of the tumour on June 30 Laura endured six chemotherapy sessions and is now waiting for radiation treatment which she is hoping to have in Dublin after she goes back to work in the New Year.
Chemotherapy can affect fertility so she considered freezing eggs before starting the treatment and wrote about the dilemma in one of her posts.
“It is a major issue for me, but when I found out my cancer was oestrogen receptive and you have to use hormones to stimulate ovulation I thought it just wasn’t worth the risk,” she said.
“Because I’m taking Tamoxifen (a standard drug therapy for women with oestrogen-sensitive tumours) I will be in my mid 30s before I can even start thinking about having children.”
But Laura says she tries to focus on the positive news that she doesn’t have the gene mutation that causes breast cancer in families and her tumour was not aggressive.
“There seems to be no reason why this happened to me,’’ she said. “I ate healthily and exercised a lot. I have blamed stress that I had at work between 2008 and 2011 when I was working insanely hard, but now I want to do what I can to stop it coming back.”
Laura’s blog talks about her struggles to eradicate processed sugar from her diet.
“I have been in touch with a nutritionist who advises cancer patients to give up sugar,” she explained. “There’s no definite evidence that eating this or that will do any good but I’m looking into it.
“The problem with doctors is that they don’t look at the cause, they just offer you the cure. I’ve got a potential 60 years left of my life in which the cancer could come back, so I want to do what I can to help myself.”
From the blog:
SINGLE , childless and unable to hold a relationship for longer than a few months without royally messing up, I was the Bridget Jones of Yorkshire, looking forward to my 30th birthday about as much as I wanted to see another set of ex-boyfriend wedding pictures on my Facebook newsfeed. Life wasn’t looking too great.
Then, just as I started planning my next big adventure, I found a lump in my breast. It was the big, scary ‘C’ word: Cancer. Several months on, I can add ‘bald, half-boobed, possibly infertile and living with parents at 30’ to my lonely heart ad. But it’s not all that bad. I decided to start a blog and it’s better therapy than any drug.
When I’m not busy karate-chopping cancer to the floor and leaving it cowering in the corner, I can usually be found reading, writing, watching films, stuffing my face with food or running marathons (fortunately the latter cancels out the former). I previously worked as a news correspondent in Brazil and Argentina and have spent much of the last 12 years living, breathing and eating Latin America.
Here you can read about my regular trips to the day spa – oops, I mean hospital – for chemotherapy treatment and my daily dealings with blue-dyed nipples, constipation and other weird and embarrassing stuff they forget to tell you about cancer.
From Laura’s most-read post, Ten Things I Like About Cancer:
I have the best feline nurse in the world.
I swear my cat, Molly, knows when I’ve had a chemo session. She curls up on my legs to keep me warm and follows me around the house. And when she thinks I’m typing too much she hijacks my laptop and tells me to get some rest. I don’t know what she’ll do when I leave my parents’ house and go back to work. I wonder if the office would mind me bringing her in?
I got to take a career break.
How often do you get six months off work at 30 years old to rest and look at what you’ve done so far? It’s a bit like a sabbatical, only with less of the travelling and studying and more of the sleeping and visiting the hospital to be poked with a massive needle.
I get to lie in bed until 11am, watch Loose Women over lunch in bed and change out of my pyjamas at 3pm before changing back into them at 7pm.
It’s just like school summer holidays all over again.
In all my years as a financial journalist in the City, no-one ever told me my writing was good. And now, writing about something I really want to write about, I get compliments every day. And penning this blog has been the best therapy I could ever have wished for.