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Carly h.

 Hi, I am Carly Marianne. I am 33, a Sheffield, Senior Business Change Officer for Sheffield City Council. I have no children. I am married to Steven Killingbeck. We had planned our wedding for July 2022. However, when I got my diagnosis we decided to get married in January (giving us just 4 weeks to organize everything) with a small party before my treatment started we postponed the big celebration until July 2023. I found a lump on November 4, 2021; I had a telephone appointment on November 8th with my GP who got me an in-person appointment for that afternoon.

My Story

The doctor confirmed the lump was present and referred me to the breast clinic at the Hallamshire Hospital. My first appointment was with a consultant who again confirmed the lump's presence, and sent me for a mammogram and a biopsy. They took 3 biopsies, two from the breast and the third was from my lymph node. The results confirmed cancer was in both the breast and the lymph nodes - Grade 2, IDC, HER2(-) and I would need a unilateral mastectomy and lymph node removal, chemotherapy, and possibly radiotherapy (I had radiotherapy before for Hodgkins Lymphoma when I was 27 ) and you can only have it once to any particular area. I consider myself lucky as the day before my appointment the Covid restrictions had lifted and I was allowed someone with me.

At this point the conversations about whether we would do chemotherapy or surgery first, whether I was eligible for fertility treatment and tests to see whether I carry any high risk genes. My first appointment with the fertility clinic was over the phone, again as I had previously had chemotherapy, I have already gotten 2 eggs stored. There were some question about whether I would be eligible for another round of funding. Fortunately, they were able to due to my updated relationship status, if you freeze embryos rather than eggs there is a higher success rate of a viable pregnancy. My husband and I again had an in person appointment and discussed it in more detail. It was decided that my surgery would be first and then the fertility treatment. The fertility treatment was put on hold, it's the chemotherapy that affects your ovaries. So, it wasn’t a priority.  Unfortunately, I contracted Covid at Christmas, which meant my surgery was delayed the hospital's policy, they could not operate within 7 weeks of Covid. However, they delayed my surgery by 3 weeks only. I had a mastectomy with lymph node clearance 3 days before my birthday. I had regular checkups with my surgeon and nurse, both of whom I know are only at the end of the phone should I need anything. At one of my checkups they noticed I was developing a seroma, and immediately sent to have it drained. This was monitored weekly and I actually had it drained 3 times.

 

I started my fertility treatment on March 9th and had the procedure to harvest my eggs on March 21st. Unfortunately, whilst the ultrasounds looked like I had eggs the doctor wasn’t able to retrieve any. This was devastating. I don't have children but have always seen them as being a part of my life. To have that potentially taken away was another kick. I was unsure if we could have enough time before starting chemotherapy and whether they would be able to fund another round. Fortunately, my oncology consultant and my fertility doctor worked together to confirm the timings and both were happy to give it a second go. I had a phone call from my fertility doctor on the 23rd of March confirming that they were happy to start again. I would need more blood tests to measure my hormone levels and that it might not be feasible, but they were happy to give it a go. My levels were good and I started the injections again on March 30th. Due to the previous failed procedure the team decided to give me an additional couple of days of injections to stimulate growth. I had my procedure to harvest the eggs on mid April. They were able to retrieve 10 eggs, 4 of which were successfully turned into healthy embryos. This procedure takes 4 days, they grow them in the lab and continue to check on the their health. I had phone calls on each day to keep me updated which was wonderful service.

 

My chemotherapy started in April and I finished in August. I have had 6 cycles in total, 1 every 3 weeks. I had 3 cycles of Epirubicin and Cyclophosphamide and then 3 cycles of Docetaxel. Whilst having treatment I am given steroids, anti nausea tablets and antibiotics all to keep my body functioning as best it can. Some of these are in tablet form and some were via injections I had to administer at home. For someone who doesn’t like needles, yes you'd think after two cancer diagnosis I'd have got over that fact! But I haven't - was a super scary moment. Whilst on chemotherapy I have been lucky enough that my hospital offers the Cold Cap. This is designed to help prevent hair loss and has resulted in some success for me. I have definitely lost hair on my crown. However I have retained some in the front and therefore have been able to style my hair in a pony tail so you wouldn't know. It’s allowed me to feel and look a little more like me longer.

 

Fingers crossed now chemo is done it starts growing back! I am also on hormone therapy as my cancer is hormone responsive, up to now this has been in the form of an injection called Zoladex every 4 weeks, now I have finished chemotherapy I will also be adding in a daily tablet called tamoxifen. I will need to be on this combination for about 10 years, with a minimum of 3 years before I can take a break to try and have a baby. My next phase of treatment is radiotherapy, I have an appointment August 11th to confirm what the plan for this is. We reached out to Carly for an update on how she's progressing and to thank her for sharing.