'gut feeling' Mum (41) with cancer says she 'wouldn't be here' if she hadn't checked twice for a lump on her breast
Cancer warrior Lisa Quigley first missed the lump that led to her diagnosis while checking herself in the shower last October.
A Westmeath mum has urged women to "listen to that inner voice" this Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Cancer warrior Lisa Quigley, from Mullingar, first missed the lump that led to her diagnosis while checking herself in the shower last October.
But the 41 year-old revealed how a "gut feeling" made her check again just one day after her beloved mum was laid to rest.
"We buried mam on a Sunday and I found the lump on Monday," recalls Lisa.
"I had pain in my left breast for a little while; I hadn't put too much heed on it because I was up and down to Tipperary looking after mam in hospital.
"I had a shower on the Monday morning - I'll never forget it - I said, 'Right Lisa, you need to check yourself'.
"So I was checking myself and I was like, ‘Oh phew! No lump, thank God - that pain was just something random'.
"And then something just told me go check again - I don't know what it was - and I checked again, and I found the lump.
"I can honestly say that if I hadn't found that, I wouldn't be here talking to you now."
Blended family mum Lisa was confirmed to have notoriously difficult-to-treat triple-negative breast cancer after the chance discovery.
And the psychotherapist told how it was doubly difficult to process the news while grieving the loss of her own mother, Cissie.
"I was so shocked," says Lisa, who's mum to Elizabeth (20) and Hazel (13), as well as stepmum to Lee (18) and Chloe (17).
"Automatically when you hear 'cancer' you just think the worst possible thing - and that’s where I went to nearly prepare myself.
"If you go there, nothing can be worse than your imagination, and anything I get after that is a positive.
"I remember asking my doctor, 'Why did I get this?', and he said, 'It's just rotten bad luck'.
"I remember being a bit annoyed, 'Am I not supposed to have somebody up there looking out for me?'" she adds.
"Like, 'Hello! Wake up now! I need a bit of support!' But actually, looking back on it now, I can see the support was the fact that I checked the first time and found nothing, and then checked again and I found it."
Determined Lisa underwent a lumpectomy, sixteen rounds of chemo and full lymph node clearance after the disease spread in a bid to get a clean bill of health.
But the therapist at The Dancing Soul refused to surrender her long, blonde locks to the disease as well - braving a 'Covid buzzcut' instead.
"The first chemo was really tough," tells Lisa, who now takes chemo tablets twice a day. "I was very, very sick with it.
"There was no doubt I was going to lose my hair.
"Before I started chemo, I shaved my head because I just didn't want to be in that situation where lumps were coming out.
"A friend of mine is a hairdresser, so my partner Stephen came with me, and we went into a little private room and she cut it off.
"That was very tough because I loved my hair - but it also helped me take my power back.
"When you have cancer, it can feel like a very powerless, helpless thing," she explains, "because you are in the hands of other people.
"Being able to take my power back in the parts where I could was a big thing.
"Like I decided when my hair was going - cancer didn't decide that for me."
And she encouraged other women - and men - here to take their fate into their own hands this October too.
Constant pain, dimpled skin, redness or a lump are just some of the telltale signs women are being urged to watch for as part of the Irish Cancer Society's annual pink ribbon campaign, but in very rare cases they can also point to male breast cancer.
"When I was having my appointments, there was always a few men," says Lisa.
"It's never been all women. So absolutely, men too - they've got bits and bobs that they need to check as well.
"Yes, we have a screening programme [for women aged 50-69], but young people can get this too.
"Sometimes we just have to take our healthcare into our own hands - literally - and feel for lumps and bumps.
"A lot of people have fear around, 'What if I find something?', but knowledge is power," she assures.
"There's no point in just hiding away and pretending it’s not happening - it’s going to happen anyway.
"Doctors see boobs as regularly as we see bread; don't be afraid to check yourself, and if you're not happy go to a doctor.
"I'm here now because I checked."