I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2013.

As a fit and healthy individual – my only weaknesses being sugar and chocolate – being told that I had cancer came as a complete shock. I didn’t feel ill, I didn’t look ill, yet, apparently, I had been affected by this ‘condition’.

I had a lumpectomy followed by the standard three weeks of radiotherapy. As my cancer was deemed to be in the early stages, I was saved from chemotherapy.

Having learned about the recently formed self help group The Living Tree, I went to my first meeting within a week of my op. Everyone was very welcoming and willing to answer my very specific questions about treatments. It was extremely helpful to me to be able to talk openly to people in a similar position. I’ve made a lot of friends in the past year. The only other people I found similarly helpful – but on a professional basis – were the Macmillan nurses at Dorchester hospital. I can’t praise them enough.

For me, being looked after by the NHS was a very mixed experience.

There were a number of missed referrals when I would still be waiting for an appointment today, if I hadn’t chased it up. There were things going missing in the post, and, especially in the early stages, everything took so long: two weeks for the initial appointment, two weeks for the ultrasound, another two to three weeks for the next appointment, a minimum of two weeks to get an MRI scan: every day of waiting adding fuel to the raging fire of panic and apprehension before finally knowing whether the cancer was only in one place or not and getting a date for the operation.

Throughout, it appeared to me that most health professionals seemed oblivious as to how much stress and anxiety all this waiting, all this not knowing causes.

As far as I know I’m currently clear of the disease. I suffer from lymph oedema but I’m working on it and am hopeful that the condition can be brought under control. I have resumed my hobbies of dancing, walking and gardening, and continue to read a great deal. While I’m aware that there are no guarantees where cancer is concerned, I feel confident that I have many healthy, happy years to come.

I will be for ever grateful to those who publicise information advocating self examination and explaining how to check for lumps. Following this advice meant that I discovered suspicious changes while they were small. Like so many before me, I tried to ignore these lumps and hoped they’d go away. I watched the cancer grow for a few months before I finally owned up to my husband about my suspicions. He made me go to the doctor within less than a week. I’m glad I went.

Mecki Testroet – March 2014