When a 31-year-old woman from Bourne, England, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, she made it her mission to educate women about the fact that the disease can strike at any age.
Hannah Dring found a lump in her breast while taking a shower.
“People ask me how I found it and it was purely by accident,” she told Stamford Mercury. “Was I regularly checking? No. Should I have been? Yes.
“I had a lump in the previous year when I was breast-feeding but it was nothing serious, just swollen lymph glands, so I wasn’t too worried. I thought it would probably be the same thing.”
But when Dring, who’s a primary school teacher, went to the doctor in September, she found out she had breast cancer. She was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, which is an aggressive form of the disease. This type is not fueled by estrogen, progesterone, or the HER2-neu protein, which makes it harder to treat.
“One in eight women will get [breast cancer] but I don’t want anyone else to go through this,” she said. “I feel like I’m taking one for the team.”
She also found out that she has a BRCA gene mutation.
So far, Dring has undergone chemotherapy. She is hopeful that she’ll be able to take part in an immunotherapy trial, and is planning on getting a double mastectomy. Undergoing radiation is also a possibility.
“The fatigue is the biggest thing,” she said. “It’s tiring anyway being the mum of two boys but this is something else. Imagine being tired, like when you’ve got a newborn, then triple it.”
It’s been tough at times for Dring to stay positive, but her husband, Dan, and her two little boys, Dylan and Henry, inspire her to keep going.
“The biggest thing for me is that I just want to see my boys grow up,” she said. “I don’t have a choice – I’ve got to fight this. I just have to get on with it. I can do that being grumpy and miserable or I can do it living my life to the full.”
Dylan is 18 months, and Henry is three years old.
“Dylan is oblivious but Henry knows I’m poorly,” she said. “He says, ‘Mummy’s got a poorly booby.’ He’s used to me going to hospital and he even helped me shave my head. That was one of the hardest things. Now he just strokes my head and asks when my hair is going to grow back.”
Besides relying on family and friends, Dring writes in her blog, Toddlers, Tantrums and a Tumour to help get her through this time in her life.
“If I can support one person, help someone understand or encourage people to check themselves then this blog will have done what I intended to do,” she wrote. “I want to help others realise that this disease does not just attack older women… please be breast cancer aware whatever age you are!”
“The most important thing for me is to spread the message to check yourself because this doesn’t just affect older women,” she said. “It shouldn’t be a taboo subject. ‘If in doubt, get it checked out’ – that’s my new motto.”
C. Dixon likes to read, sing, eat, drink, write, and other verbs. She enjoys cavorting around the country to visit loved ones and experience new places, but especially likes to be at home with her husband, son, and dog.