Mother-of-three full of gratitude after successful chemotherapy
Breaking the news to young children that you are sick and will need treatment is not an easy thing to do. But when Louise Collins told her sons she was probably going to lose her hair because of the medicine she would be taking, and that she would need to get ‘new hair’, their reaction was immediate.
“They asked me if I could get green hair so that I’d look like the Hulk,” she laughed.
Being diagnosed with breast cancer in the early days of the pandemic, Ms Collins, from Dunshaughlin, Co Meath, was plunged into a nightmare.
The hardest thing about it was having to do everything alone, she said. Even her diagnosis had to be delivered to her over the phone because medics did not want to subject her to any risk of contracting Covid-19. “It was so, so hard,” she said.
Her husband, Fergal, had been with her when she got the bad news over the phone and was able to come into the hospital with her to meet the consultant.
“But he was never allowed in for any of the good stuff and that was hard on him,” said Ms Collins. “It’s not fair. And rules are rules, but he missed out on the good points of my treatment.”
Fortunately, their children – twins Dylan and Rhys, then aged five, and Aaron, then aged four – adapted very well to the situation. “They’ve been so good,” she said.
Ms Collins’s journey with cancer began when she found a ‘ridge’ on her left breast. She went to her GP, who referred her for triple assessment.
She was diagnosed with the condition in February. Because of Covid, she ended up being treated at the Beacon Hospital rather than the one she had originally been due to attend and started chemotherapy on May 1.
Fortunately, the treatment proved successful.
“I knew it was working because after the second session I could feel a tingling where the lump was and the nurse said that’s a good sign. I had a good feeling.
“When I went into the surgeon after I was finished, he said it had been ‘a significant positive result’. I asked him to say that again. He did and then I told him to say it a third time because I was just so glad to be getting some good news after what he had been telling me before.”
Just a very small piece of the cancer remained after chemotherapy. Ms Collins then underwent a mastectomy before radiotherapy and, because of some complications, she spent eight days in hospital.
She continues to receive Herceptin treatment, which is expected to finish in July.
Ms Collins is thankful to have received her initial appointment with the hospital because “things could have been a hell of a lot worse”.
“I have plenty of hope and gratitude and I’ve started yoga and mindfulness – you have to have a positive mindset,” she said.
Ms Collins has not been in a shop for a year as she takes precautions to steer clear of Covid infection. There was also a period of four months when she did not leave home except to go to hospital. The experience has left her more fearless than ever.
Her biggest hope is that the family will all be able to get together this summer.
“We always have a family barbecue for my husband’s birthday – it’s the June bank holiday week,” she said.
“We couldn’t have it last year and I don’t know if we’ll be able to have it this year. But we might have it in August, just to have everyone together and to be able to hug one another. That would be just the best thing of all.”