Catrin Hughes Image Credit: Supplied

Name Catrin Hughes 
Nationality British

“People say to those with cancer ‘oh you are brave’,” says Catrin Hughes. “I’m not brave — you just have to get on with it. I’ve had incredible support from friends and family, and I can’t speak highly enough of the medical team at the hospital who without exception have been brilliant.

“I was also fortunate to be put in touch with The Pink Ladies, a fabulous group of women who have been through, or who are going through, the same thing — their advice and support have been amazing.”

British national Catrin first felt a lump in her breast last December and knew immediately what it was. Not wanting to ruin Christmas for everyone, she waited until January to go to the GP who asked her to go for a CT scan and mammogram, which confirmed the bad news. After various scans, biopsies, tests and meetings with different specialists, the results showed that Catrin had a hormone positive type of cancer — which is good news as it can hopefully be kept under control in the future by taking hormone blockers. 

It was agreed that she would have a left mastectomy, followed by chemo and radiation. Catrin had her surgery in early February; she started chemo three weeks after. This involved four sessions of AC (known as the Red Devil because of its bright red colour) every three weeks, and 12 weekly sessions of Taxol. “Chemo itself isn’t at all painful — you lie in bed while they administer it via a port, which means it doesn’t batter your veins. I used the time to read, watch stuff and sleep. Having heard stories about the effects of chemo, I was dreading the next few months, but I was incredibly lucky and I didn’t have any real side effects apart from hair loss,” says Catrin. 

She finished chemo in August and had a much-needed break in the UK. In September, Catrin started radiation and has five more sessions to go.

Name Amanda Fagan
Nationality Irish

“On April 20, 2016, 45-year-old Amanda Fagan went for her annual mammogram appointment — exactly one year after her last examination. Amanda was particular about her mammograms as her maternal cousin (one year younger) was fighting metastatic cancer, which had started as breast cancer. “I had been doing this for some years, so I was very relaxed, chatting to my sisters on WhatsApp as I waited to be called,” recounts Amanda. 

After her mammogram the doctor asked to take some more images, then requested an ultra sound, which was normal for Amanda as she had very dense (lumpy) breasts. This is when her doctor informed her about a mass on her left breast and suggested a biopsy immediately.  

Four days later, Amanda’s GP broke the bad news to her husband and her that she had breast cancer (invasive ductal carcinoma) and she would most probably need treatment and surgery. 

After leaving the clinic, Amanda and her husband sat in the nearby coffee shop in shock, crying and deciding how to tell their family and their four children.
Amanda was diagnosed with three large tumours in her left breast and was tested hormone positive but BRCA (genetic) negative. She began her treatment with chemotherapy (which would take six months) and after that she had a radical double mastectomy and reconstruction. This was followed by 25 sessions of radiotherapy and 17 cycles of an IV drug that was a targeted hormone treatment.

“Chemotherapy is very difficult and every patient has varying side effects. My heart muscle was damaged and now I am on medication for the rest of my life along with anastrozole for five years to prevent the cancer returning and thyroid medication. I also had a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (removal of fallopian tubes and ovaries).

“My journey through cancer was definitely a very tough one but with the support of amazing friends and family I have come out the other side. I am now is remission and continue to live my life and enjoy every day.”

Name Pippa Dilley 
Nationality British

“The news that I had tested positive for breast cancer was a shock,” recounts Pippa Dilley whose life turned upside down in March when she found a lump in her right breast during a routine self-examination. 

“It came out of the blue, so that evening I went out with my close friend to let the news sink in. “My first reaction was to call one of my closest friends in the UK who had been through breast cancer,” says Pippa. “She told me to go to the doctor immediately.” 

The next day she went to the doctor. He sent her for a mammogram and then after receiving the results asked her to go for a breast ultrasound. “I was at work when the doctor emailed me the results,” she says. “The news was devastating and the manner in which the results were shared just showed the callous approach to patient care and well-being. Needless to say, I changed hospitals!” 

After that, the whole month was a blur for Pippa who spent most of her time in hospitals between CT scans, MRIs and doctors’ appointments. Meanwhile, her family back in Spain and the UK were clueless about her illness. Luckily she had a close friend for emotional support. 

At the end of the month, she flew back to Spain and then the UK to share the news with her son and mum in person. Unfortunately for Pippa, her mother was hospitalised a day before she landed in the UK. The next three weeks, Pippa struggled between caring for her ailing mother and the demands of her doctors to return to Dubai and commence treatment immediately. 

Pippa was wheeled in for a surgery the very next day of returning to Dubai. Unfortunately, in the same week she lost her mother to illness. 

Still recuperating from the surgery Pippa was advised to undergo four chemo sessions, which were aggressive and left her feeling tired and weak all the time. “Chemo affects everything in your body, so now all my bones and joints ache, my nails are sore, and my fingers are numb so much that I can’t use the finger scanner at work to get into the office!” says Pippa. 

The bright side of this story: Pippa is looking forward to her upcoming trip back home after an eight-month travel embargo imposed by her doctor. “Five of my friends and family are flying over to be with me on my last session, which is amazing,” shares Pippa. 

Post her holiday she will return to Dubai to start her radiation for four weeks.