Local breast cancer survivor ‘bares all’ to raise awareness

Photo shows, Lisa Fagan, who has spoken about having breast cancer and finding she carried the BRCA 1 gene, which increases chances of breast and ovarian cancer.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and an organisation called Cups Against Breast Cancer, which funds free supports for people affected by breast cancer, is organising an awareness campaign.

The Irish Cancer Society is asking members of the public to hold ‘Cups Against Breast Cancer’ coffee mornings to support the fight against the disease cancer. Funds raised will go towards breast cancer research and free services to support breast cancer patients and their families.

As part of the awareness campaign, breast cancer survivor Lisa Fagan from Mullingar has shared her personal experience of cancer and spoken about how free services open to her, such as the volunteer driver service and LARCC, helped her through the difficult times.

“I found a lump in my right breast in October 2017 while lying in bed one morning,” Lisa told the Westmeath Examiner.

“I went to my GP and within two weeks I was seen in the Mater Hospital.”

Lisa says that originally she thought the lump was just a cist and nothing more sinister.

“I was back up 10 days later and had a lumpectomy followed by eight rounds of chemotherapy in Tullamore. That was in December 2017 and thankfully the cancer was confined to that one lump and hadn’t spread any further.

“My initial reaction to the news was ‘you don’t think this happens to you’. I was in disbelief. It wasn’t till my hair fell out that it really hit home.

“That was one of the hardest things – losing my hair. Now it has grown back, I still don’t look like myself because it grew back curly and much darker than it was originally.”

Of going through chemotherapy, Lisa said it was like having a “constant hangover” or morning sickness.

“It would take me a full week to come around after the chemo, you feel like death really, it was one bad week, followed by a good week, and then back in for chemo again the next. In all, it was four long months of chemo.”

Lisa made the most of the services open to her, including the Irish Cancer Society volunteer driver service, which is funded by donations.

“The drivers were fantastic, chatting with me about everything and anything to take my mind off my impending chemo session. Using this service meant my husband could have the following day off to look after me.”

However, just as Lisa was finishing her chemo, doctors discovered she had the BRCA 1 gene, which increases chances of breast and ovarian cancer.

“So I had a double mastectomy and my ovaries removed,” Lisa said. “I chose not to have reconstruction surgery, I didn’t want to be putting foreign bodies back into my body.

“I also never wanted to see the inside of a hospital again. I just wanted to be free of it all.”

Lisa also visited LARCC in Multyfarnham. “Reflexology is really good for people going through chemo and the service offered by LARCC is really beneficial. They also have people you can talk to there when you are going through dark days, it’s those support services that helps you get through it.”

Now that she is free of cancer and healthy, Lisa explains that she is braver than ever and wants to make the most of every minute.

“It was such a change to my life. I worked for the HSE and I was out sick for 20 months. Financially it’s a strain, and as well as that, my eldest daughter was asking me if she would get what I had.

“My in-laws are here but my mum and dad were in England, so that was hard. But I did have good support from the family and friends I have here, and that makes all the difference.

“A diagnosis does change your whole life. You slow down, and I now I find myself wanting to jump off buildings! I did a sponsored skinny dip in June, one of the largest skinny dips organised, and I did one previous to that – just three days after I had my ovaries removed, that was the first time I bared all.

“Now I’m back to work, not full time but I’m back. Everyone’s healthy and happy and living life to the full. It has been a roller coaster but we’ve come out the other side of it and I’m thankful for that.”

About Cups Against Breast Cancer

This October, the Irish Cancer Society is asking members of the public to hold a Cups Against Breast Cancer coffee morning to support the fight against breast cancer.

Money raised will fund breast cancer research and free services to support breast cancer patients and their families. So get your cups out for a good cause this October and host a Cups Against Breast Cancer coffee morning. For more information see www.cancer.ie/cupsagainstcancer.

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