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Sandra - Interview 21

Age at interview: 57
Age at diagnosis: 50
Brief Outline: Sandra was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003, and received surgery, radiotherapy and hormone treatment. She had lots of negative side effects from the tamoxifen, and feels that there was a lack of aftercare following her diagnosis.
Background: Sandra is married, and recently retired from social work. She has two sons. Ethnic Background: White British.

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Sandra was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. She received surgery, radiotherapy and hormone treatment. She thinks that the care she got before and during her cancer treatment was good, but there was a lack of after care. When she went for her first post operation checkup she wasn’t seen by the same surgeon who did her operation, so the consultant wasn’t familiar with her case. The biggest sources of support were her husband and her friends She thought about support groups but didn’t feel they were suitable. She didn’t want to see people who were having relapses.
 
Sandra experienced lots of negative side effects from the tamoxifen treatment she received following surgery. She had mood swings, constant hot flushes and weight gain on the tamoxifen, which also kick started the menopause. A friend of hers recommended Nolvadex D as an alternative with fewer side effects, and her doctor switched her to that from tamoxifen. Her consultant took her off the Nolvadex D five years post diagnosis, but she felt worried coming off the treatment as it was supposed to be cancer preventing. 
 
Since having cancer, Sandra sees life differently. For instance, little things that used to be important are no longer important to her. She decided to retire because she felt that there was more to life than work. However, she felt these changes later on, many years after she was diagnosed. She thinks that she was in denial when she was initially told she had cancer, going through all of the motions of attending treatment. 
 
Sandra still worries about cancer recurring. She had some bleeds last year and was referred back to her cancer consultant from about five years ago, and was sure that she had cervical cancer. Thankfully everything was clear. 
 
She doesn’t like the term cancer survivor, and thinks that it is misleading to tell people to ‘fight cancer’. People who die from cancer don’t die just because they didn’t ‘fight’ hard enough; it is just because they had an incurable disease. Her message to other people is to just keep living your life, and to go for it after living past a cancer diagnosis. 
 
 

Sandra had breast cancer 7 years ago. She doesn’t like the term ‘cancer survivor’ or the...

Sandra had breast cancer 7 years ago. She doesn’t like the term ‘cancer survivor’ or the...

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Some people use the term cancer survivors to talk about people who’ve lived a long time after diagnosis. How do you feel about that term? Do you think that that applies to you?
 
No. And I don’t like the term, you know, when you read in the paper, “She fought cancer”. She didn’t fight it. I don’t like the term. “This is a cancer battle and I’m determined to do this fifteen mile walk”. And blah de blah de blah. Because at the end of the day, you’ve got cancer. You live with it or you die with it. You can’t fight it.
 
You can’t battle it. And when people say, “It’s all about your sense of fight”, it’s all about your sense of, “Well, I’m determined I’m going to beat this”, what they really mean is a positive attitude will be very helpful, but I don’t think they should put it in terms of a battle or a fight, because what about the people that don’t come through it? Were they just weak willed and they lost the battle? Of course they weren’t. 
 

Sandra sees life differently since having breast cancer 7 years ago; she has taken early...

Sandra sees life differently since having breast cancer 7 years ago; she has taken early...

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It certainly had an effect on my life. A massive, massive effect, not at the time, you know, not so much at the time as later, and how it’s affecting my life now is I see life very differently. Things that used to be important aren’t important any more. If I’ve got any spare time or spare money I have holidays. I do things, I enjoy my grandchildren. I don’t work anymore. I did keep working and then I took early retirement and I thought, “There’s more to life than work”. And so it did have a massive impact on my life but not at the time. 

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