Wednesday 28 September 2016

'People don't realise the after-effects of cancer'

Published 08/03/2016 | 08:35

Ruth O'Sullivan
Ruth O'Sullivan

The trauma of battling cancer doesn't necessarily end when the physical disease has been beaten, according to one brave survivor.

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Ruth O'Sullivan (46), from Sandyford, was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in June 2014 - one of the more aggressive types of cancer.

"I quite accidentally found a lump in my breast. I wasn't really too worried initially because it seemed very small and I just wasn't sure if it was anything," she said. "So what I did was I kept an eye on it for a couple of weeks, and it didn't go away, so I thought I just better go and have this checked out."

She underwent tests in St Vincent's Hospital, and was quite shocked to find out she had breast cancer.

Ruth underwent a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and then radiotherapy, over some eight months of treatment, which finished in February last year.

During the treatment, she lost her hair, which she had been expecting. "But I don't think anything really prepares you for the actual thing.

Scary

"It started to come out very slowly and within a day or two of it starting it was coming out in handfuls, which was really quite scary in a way. It brought home to me what was happening."

Throughout her successful treatment, her student son Killian (22) was a great support to her. "I tried to be very positive and stay strong through the initial diagnosis and the chemo. Telling family and friends was very difficult."

However, Ruth said that she suffered a lot of anxiety towards the end of her chemotherapy treatment as she was trying to deal with everything. "It has been quite difficult emotionally and psychologically, which I don't think maybe people would be that aware.

"A lot of the focus, I think, is getting through the treatment and surviving and beating the disease. But I don't think there is too much focus on the after-effects or the aftermath."

Anxious

She now undergoes check-ups every six months. "I don't mind the check-up, but when I am waiting for the results it is an anxious time, and it brings it all up again. I think life is very different when you face down something like that," she said.

Ruth was talking to the Herald in advance of Daffodil Day this Friday.

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