We caught up with Melissa, an Avon Sales Leader who’s here to share her breast cancer story, from pushing for a diagnosis to how she’s coping with treatment during lockdown.
Tell us a little bit about you and your Avon business?
I became a Rep six years ago; I had used and loved the products for years but didn’t have a local Rep anymore so decided to start my own business. About two years in, I started to build a team as a Sales Leader and now have 25 people in my team.
I started sharing products with just friends and family, but soon gained new customers thanks to my online business and posting on my social channels. This was about the time when I had my daughter, and the flexibility of my Avon business helped me look after her while earn at the same time.
How did you find out Avon’s Causes and the Breast Cancer Promise?
I’d always been aware of Avon’s commitment to the breast cancer cause, and the partnership with CoppaFeel!. I always encourage my customers to check themselves. Checking regularly is something I’ve always done – it’s important to know you’re not looking for anything, just finding out what feels normal to you. In fact, checking regularly saved my life.
Can you tell us about when you noticed something that wasn’t normal to you?
It was December last year and I started to notice a pain under my armpit. From checking regularly, I hadn’t noticed any other differences, but the pain gradually increased across my chest as we got closer to Christmas.
On New Year’s Eve, I went to my GP as I knew something wasn’t right. My son was six months old and I was still breastfeeding, and after speaking with the doctor they prescribed antibiotics as they thought the pain may be related to this. A few weeks passed and the pain was still there. I then noticed a slight dimple on my breast, which when visiting my GP I was told was ‘normal’ for those breastfeeding but I knew that something wasn’t right for me. I returned to the doctors and pushed for a referred to the breast clinic.
What happened when you pushed for a referral?
In February of this year, I was given an ultrasound for my ‘peace of mind’ where they found some benign lumps.
It was then, on a second scan of the area, that they found a lump against my chest wall, very deep and in my lymph nodes. After a biopsy, it was confirmed as grade 2 invasive breast cancer and surgery was needed.
You can discover more misconceptions around breast cancer by checking out CoppaCollege.
Your diagnosis was just before lockdown in the UK, how did this affect your treatment plan?
It was so important for me to keep pushing to be seen during the COVID-19 crisis, staying true to my gut that something wasn’t right.
I was due to start treatment in March, but because I had a slight cough, I wasn’t able to begin. This meant I was booked in straight for surgery a few weeks later. My cough persisted, and although pushing for a test to show that I was negative for COVID-19, my surgery was cancelled on the day it was booked in for because of my symptoms, at the point where I was in pre-op. It was so disheartening. Finally, after a negative COVID-19 test, I was able to progress with treatment and proceed with surgery where my lymph nodes were removed.
What’s next for your treatment plan?
The results of this surgery showed that the cancer was in fact a grade three, so the fastest growing and the tumour was more than twice the size as originally suspected. There was also extensive spreading through my lymph nodes, plus a new type was identified where I have cancerous cells in my breasts but no symptoms. It’s likely it’s genetic and I could have had this for years and not known about it.
I’m now going through chemotherapy for this type of breast cancer and will be having at least a single mastectomy followed by radiotherapy, until summer 2021. It’s a long journey, but it shows the importance of pushing for a second opinion. If anything doesn’t feel right to you, no matter how small you think it might be, get it checked out. If I hadn’t gone to my GP, I would have had a later diagnosis and may not have the treatment options I do today.
What would be your advice for anyone who is checking and noticed something’s not right?
If you find something that’s not normal to you – get it checked out!
There is so much in the news at the moment about people not seeking medical advice. I hope my story will encourage people to check regularly, know their normal and not hold back from speaking to a doctor.
Click here for more information on what to look out for when checking your breasts (or pecs, guys!).
For a free CoppaFeel! text reminder to check your boobs and pecs, text BOOB CREW to 70300 (T&Cs)