18 years since diagnosis
Age at interview: 68
Iceni (68 years old) worked as a family counsellor and is now working as a writer. She has three grown children.
Iceni received her diagnosis in 1997 and had a lumpectomy. After this, she learned that not all the cancer cells had been removed and that she needed chemotherapy and extra radiation. In 2003 she felt another lump in her breast where the scar tissue was. This time she was treated with a radical mastectomy and hormone therapy for 6 years. Discovering the recurrence was a frustrating moment for Iceni as she wished that her first treatments had been more thorough. Even though it has been more than 11 years since her second diagnosis and treatment, she is still living with the consequences of the illness. For example, Iceni is still searching for an affordable bra with a prosthesis, something that is not covered under medicare in in her province. She has only one bra and is unable to afford another one herself. The bra’s esthetical function is much less important for Iceni then the physical support she has from the bra for the rest of her body. It helps her to maintain better balance with her movements and she feels more like a normal person in public. Iceni’s body has changed to such an extent from the radiation treatment that she notices the damage to her lungs and has breathing problems. Iceni also has experienced pain during intercourse because of the damage to her sexual organs. As a result, Iceni’s relationship on an intimate level changed. This is a subject that she finds difficult to bring up with health care professionals as it is painful and embarrassing to share this. Living in a rural area is another challenge as costs may increase rapidly if she needs to travel to services, and at the same time only limited services are available in the area where she lives. Overall, however, Iceni is a strong self-reliant woman that enjoys sharing her experiences with laughter and jokes.
- Endocrine (hormone) therapy -IceniIceni's new doctor advised her to stop taking the pills considering the time she had taken them and the side-effects she was experiencing.
- Messages to others – IceniYou can't do all the things you did before, even when you look well. Iceni advises others not to be afraid to help.
- Relating to health care professionals – IceniIceni prefers to take someone else to appointments.
- Sexuality, femininity and intimacy – IceniIn one extreme case, Iceni sustained serious and lasting damage to her pelvic region from radiation. This has made it impossible for her to have intercourse.
- Recurrent and metastatic (advanced) breast cancer – IceniIceni was angry about the recurrence and felt that if she'd had her breast removed during her initial treatment, recurrence might have been avoided.
- Troubling long-term effects of treatment – IceniIceni explained how although she had resumed many of her former activities, her level of interest and enjoyment had diminished.
- Troubling long-term effects of treatment – IceniIceni explains how her body reacted to 6 years of hormone therapy.
- How it affects family and friends – IceniIceni felt people were scared and stopped seeing her. Her own son was not able to visit her.