“Knowing that help is a phone call away, is a great comfort.” Sal’s story

Published: 16 February 2023

Sal was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2022 after having a cyst checked at hospital.

Meet Sal

Sal, a woman wearing a black cap

It was a shock as I’d initially gone into hospital under the impression a cyst had returned and need to be drained. The tumour was “hiding” behind 3 little cysts. Had it not been for the cysts I dread to think how long the tumour would have gone undetected.

At first, I felt like a fraud. I didn’t feel ill but at the same time I’d just been told I had breast cancer – it was a very surreal feeling.

The more I went to hospital appointments, the more it sank in that this was real and was happening. After my lumpectomy the whole realisation of the situation hit me like a ton of bricks. Macmillan counselling really helped me get through a lot of confused emotions.

After the lumpectomy I had 19 rounds of radiotherapy (4 were the boost) and it was exhausting. The radiotherapy team were amazing and even put up with my terrible jokes such as “I’ll be having fission chips for tea after today’s round.”

“The emotional side effects of the Tamoxifen are a bit of a rollercoaster.”

I’m currently muddling through side-effects of radiotherapy and Tamoxifen as best as I can.

My left arm and hand are weak and have spasmodic bouts of being very painful. This is distressing when it’s bad as I struggle to fasten my bra or chop vegetables.

The Tamoxifen is giving me severe nausea. I’m now on stronger anti sickness medication which helps, but I am still struggling to face food and have lost a stone in weight.

Recently, I was at Boots to get some medication and burst into tears for no reason. It felt like the end of the world had just been announced and I sobbed. Cuddles from husband and 5 minute sit down in the car later, I pulled myself together.

This is something I HAVE to remind myself is a side effect and will pass when it happens, but it can be very difficult to convince my own emotions to calm down and breathe

“Financially, cancer has not been kind.”

My sick pay from work ended in September 2022. I was able to request the holidays I had accrued over the year and work very kindly gave me that in November which covered bills.

My only income now is PIP. My husband’s income depends on what part time hours he’s given, so some months can be literally a pound over qualifying for any help from Universal Credit, other months we might get £12.50.

Macmillan have helped us to understand what help we can apply for and form filling. 

We’ve cut back even more in recent months on things like food, because our mortgage is now £70 a month more expensive than it was at the beginning of 2022. I’d desperately love to go back to work but I’m just not well enough.

I am lucky that my family and friends have been supportive, and I can honestly say hand on heart, that without the help of Macmillan I don’t know how I would have got through this far.