As a rule Snapchat, Instagram and blogging are employed for selfies and shallow pursuits, like following your favourite beauty mogul or fashion icon. But for Sorcha Lavelle, who was diagnosed with breast cancer, social media has become an altogether more meaningful platform, where she shared her journey to educate young women about the disease.
Sorcha Lavelle (23), Rathfarnham
Blog: The Big C Sorcha Lavelle
Bubbly Sorcha Lavelle was just 22 years of age when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Determined to create awareness, the customer service agent from Dublin decided to share her journey, filter free.
"On the August 17, I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. I had noticed that I had a lump in the side of my left breast but I didn’t think much of it, I just thought it was fatty tissue or a cyst. My mum had had cysts too, so I just assumed it was a genetic thing.
When I found the lump, I said it to my friends and cancer didn’t cross anyone’s mind because I was so young.
It was only when I went to the GP for a general check-up that I said I may as well mention it to my doctor.
My doctor said: “Just for protocol, I am going to send you to James’s to get checked.”
When I went to St James’s Hospital, the consultant came in and said he wanted to bring me back the next day to do a biopsy and mammogram, just to make sure that everything was okay.
I remember waiting on my biopsy and people asked me, ‘Are you worried that it is cancer?’ And I said no because I genuinely wasn’t worried.
Two weeks later, the results came back and I was told that I had an aggressive form of breast cancer and it had spread into my lymph nodes. I remember laughing in my consultant’s face and I just said, “You are joking, right?”
My mam just said: “It should be me, it should be me. It shouldn’t be a 22-year-old.”
It was all so surreal.
From the day I was diagnosed, everything happened very quickly. Two weeks later, I started my chemotherapy and pretty much every day consisted of my mum and I in and out of the hospital for tests: MRIs, CT scans, bone scans, the lot.
Everyone we encountered at the beginning could not believe how young I was.
I had chemo for 20 weeks and I lost my hair, my eyebrows, my eyelashes and I lost some of my finger nails and my toe nails.
My first chemo session was delayed because I had to get a drug to protect my fertility. I could be infertile, but at this stage, they don’t know until further testing.
As tough as that was, I then had a mastectomy on my left breast, which involved lengthy hospital stays, infections and a number of complications.
I started radiotherapy last Wednesday and that will last for 28 days, but I am cancer free as of now.
In August or September, I am getting a mastectomy on my right breast — that is more so my choice. Because I am so young, they can’t tell me if the cancer will ever reoccur again.
I have been blogging since I was diagnosed but I have only started to Snapchat lately because I have come off chemo and I don’t have all the drugs in my system. My hair is growing and I am just feeling more like myself.
My blog starts from when I was first diagnosed. So many women have gotten in touch and thanked me for sharing my story.
All I wanted to do was create awareness and show people that you can get through it. It is hard, but you will get there in the end.
There were days when I was sick and I went into the hospital and I would not talk to anybody. And when I lost my hair and I had this chemo face because I was on steroids, I just was not myself.
Even my nurses would say, ‘Sorcha is sick when she is not talking to anyone.’
But there are more good days then there are bad. If I can even encourage one person to check their breasts then that is good enough for me."
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