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Breast cancer is 'not just pink and positive' for Gorey woman Siobhán

Local lady lends her voice to the latest Marie Keating campaign

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Siobhan Freeney appearing in a video for the Marie Keating Foundation’s latest campaign

Siobhan Freeney appearing in a video for the Marie Keating Foundation’s latest campaign

Siobhan Freeney on the poster for the ‘Breast Cancer Isn’t Just Pink’ campaign

Siobhan Freeney on the poster for the ‘Breast Cancer Isn’t Just Pink’ campaign

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Siobhan Freeney appearing in a video for the Marie Keating Foundation’s latest campaign

goreyguardian

Gorey woman Siobhan Freeney has teamed up with the Marie Keating Foundation to share her story about breast cancer and the issue of breast density.

Just in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the new campaign 'Breast Cancer Isn't Just Pink' acknowledges that everyone's breast cancer journey is unique and filled with dark and difficult moments at times.

In a video posted by the charity, Ms Freeney tells her story about losing her breast and how having breast cancer has changed her.

Identifying her cancer as the colour 'white', she says that the disease isn't pink, positive or happy at all times.

'It has taken a long time to not see it everyday - I'm talking about the scar,' she says in the video.

'Having one breast, let's face it, it's not a natural look. Breasts are something you have for a long time and you only notice it more in the mirror when it's gone.

'I struggled with it in the hospital, I really didn't want to see it and couldn't look at it. It wasn't like me as I'm quite a strong person but it really had me at odds with myself. Having had breast cancer has changed me, and I think it changes everybody. Some ways are good different, other ways are not so good different but they are all very important parts of me,' she said.

Along with the three other women taking part, the idea of colour is explored by the campaign with the women describing what colour they see their cancer as, and breaking down the traditional pink associated with breast cancer charities.

Siobhán Freeney sees her cancer as white, and the reason for this is due to her breast density.

'When you have your mammogram, cancer shows up as white. But when you have dense breasts, the density also comes up as white and looking for the cancer is like looking for a snowball in a snowstorm,' she says.

'When I was asked what colour my cancer was, immediately for me it was white. I explained that the reason is when you have a mammogram, cancer shows up as white for the radiologist. They are looking for your cancer, it should shine almost brighter than the surrounding tissue but breast density also shows up as white. That's what happens with the white on white masking affect.

'Women need to know about their breast density. For any woman with dense breasts, if they are unaware of it then they are unaware that they should be having an ultrasound alongside a mammogram, it's hugely important.

'I've been to the High Court, we've learned the significance of it in terms of my own delayed diagnosis. It took me four years to actually hear somebody say on record that I had extremely dense breasts. It's important for a generation of women to come'.

Siobhán admitted that it has been a tough year for her due to the disappointing High Court outcome as well as the onset of the pandemic.

'I'm so proud to be part of the campaign with Marie Keating, it was a lovely experience. It was a difficult year after the disappointing result but I feel now I can speak more freely. I was doing a survive and thrive course with Marie Keating, but it was postponed due to Covid. I had been chatting to some of people in Marie Keating, they'd be aware of my blog and they have been very supportive of it. They asked me if I'd like to be involved this year.

'The month of October has become synonymous with breast cancer awareness and I've never been a big fan of the pink and fluffy idea. I can understand why it became the pink ribbon, as now there's a global symbol for it but women particularly who have had surgery, losing a part of you that is a huge part of your femininity and having it gone, there's nothing pink about it any of it really.

'In order for people to really understand cancer and why research is important, we have to move away from the 'pink' aspect of it,' she said.

Contrasting her own cancer journey which began in 2015, Siobhán said that for women and men who are diagnosed now the road is a much lonelier one.

'We've been without our national breast screening service since March and people with a diagnosis are having to be dropped off for the chemotherapy appointments and can't have somebody with them. They are getting very good care in difficult times but I look back and think that it was hard enough for me at the time and goodness knows how much harder it is now. I've a lot of contact with other women through the Being Dense blog and Lobular Ireland, and Covid has made things so much more difficult for both clinician and patients. They feel more isolated and there is a lot of loneliness,' she said.

Ireland's statistics stands that one in ten will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, and it is the most common cancer in women in Ireland.

Siobhán's advice is to take one step at a time.

'It's a journey for everybody who has cancer but the first step for me was getting my head around the diagnosis. When you're told you've a cancer diagnosis, all you mind thinks is let's get rid of this.

'I had eight chemotherapy sessions and they came every fortnight and that is all I really focused on. I set them up in my head like hurdles, when you've the first two done, you're a quarter of the way there. It is a mindset, and it's very important to get the psychological end of it right. It's the psychological affects of Covid and that feeling of separation that's tough.

'I was free to be out and about when I was going through it, I could have lunch with friends and that was all very normal and reassuring. Covid has certainly taken that from people and it's very important to just stay connected'.

Adjusting to a new lifestyle and appearance during that time was challenging for Siobhán.

'Different diagnosis's are dealt with differently and right from the get go I was told that I would be having a mastectomy. From having a clear mammogram in June 2015 to then be told that in December, I found it very difficult to comprehend.

'Five months I was waiting for the surgery and had chemotherapy in that time but I would have preferred the surgery to come first. Appearance wise, if you look in the mirror and you like what's looking back at you, it's easier to accept it. When I was bald I didn't mind that too much, but when I got the chemo look, that was tough.

'But I had really wonderful people around me. Jim Mythen from His and Hers in Gorey, I wasn't even his client at the time and he took the time out and took care of me. He shaved my head and when it was all done, he spoke to me about what was likely to happen'.

Siobhán wants to break down the idea that having cancer makes you a 'better person'.

'I believe you come out changed, but I don't go along with this idea of being happier. I'm not going around miserable but the things I used to do like golf and tennis, I'm still unable to get back to them and I retired early from work.

'I'm a different person because of cancer and I do different things but I'm not a better person. I've thrown myself into the patient advocacy world and I enjoy the doing of that,' she said.

To find out more about the campaign, visit www.mariekeating.ie/notjustpink.


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