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Campaign Mum urges women to check breasts after early diagnosis helped her in battle against cancer

'I appreciate every day having survived breast cancer'

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Annette is so grateful for her recovery

Annette is so grateful for her recovery

Annette is so grateful for her recovery

Annette Faherty was looking forward to her 40th birthday party when, in the shower, she noticed a huge dimple had popped up overnight on her right breast.

"I looked in the mirror and thought 'Jesus, what is after happening me?' It was the very same as you hitting a car, like a dent in a car," the Co Tipperary schoolteacher tells the Sunday World.

Later that day she was visited by a friend.

"She said 'go now to the doctor and get it checked, because I'm here to babysit and it will save you hassle next week'," Annette recalls. "I owe her an awful lot as I would have put it off till the following week only for her."

Annette was perplexed about the dimple but did not think there was anything to worry about as there was no obvious lump, although she had been feeling tired in the weeks leading up to its occurrence.

"If I had known I was going to be diagnosed, I wouldn't have gone, I would have been terrified. I got diagnosed on the Wednesday and my party was on the Friday and I went ahead with it.

"I had a mammogram and an ultrasound. They knew straight away it was cancer without taking a biopsy. In the hospital they don't really know but they think that the tumour got wrapped around a blood vessel and stopped the blood going to that front lobe of the breast," she reveals.

"I was really lucky, the lump was actually very far at the back of my breast so you wouldn't have felt it, and it was very small."

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Annette with her children Dara and Saoirse

Annette with her children Dara and Saoirse

Annette with her children Dara and Saoirse

 

Annette is a teacher in St Colmcille's primary school in Templemore.

Her cancer was diagnosed as HER2, one of the deadliest forms of the illness.

"If HER2 spreads, it's very, very aggressive," Annette says. "It's very rare in someone as young as me. It spreads and grows really quickly, so it's a very fast growing cancer. It's a very scary one to have, but if its caught in time it's very treatable because the Herceptin they give you is like a miracle drug."

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Annette had to have six chemotherapy sessions and two months of radiotherapy.

"I had my lumpectomy and the results came back that it hasn't spread and it wasn't in the lymph nodes, so part of me was so relieved and I thought this was such a small price, to be well and see my kids grow up," she reflects.

"I didn't want to be a burden to anyone, I'm a very independent person. What I found the hardest was not the physical stuff, you can sleep and eat what you want.

"What killed me was seeing the sadness in my family's eyes. Seeing my family walk in and I knew I was having a bad day by the look in their eyes. It broke my heart I couldn't get up out of the bed and say 'I'm fine'. That broke me."

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Annette with friend

Annette with friend

Annette with friend

 

Annette was helped through her ordeal by her partner and her children, Dara (13) and Saoirse (15).

Her marriage broke up 12 years ago and she was in her new relationship just six weeks when she was diagnosed.

"I rang him after the hospital and I just said 'look we'll just be friends and I'll go through the treatment and we will see how things end up and he said 'it's a bit late for that, I'm in it for the long run, so I will just take it day by day', so we did and we are still together."

Annette's treatment has been a huge success, and she has also been helped by counselling, reiki, reflexology, a personal trainer and a herbalist.

"I am so full of gratitude. There's not a day I don't get up and I look up at the sky and I'm so glad to see the sky, to be able to climb a mountain again. To be able to swim in a pool again. To be able to hug my kids and eat a dinner and taste the food - I lost my taste during chemo. To laugh. I appreciate every single bit, I've been given such a great chance. I'm so fearless now, nothing scares me and I've been given a great chance to spread kindness and make a difference."

Annette is taking part in the Irish Cancer Society's breast cancer awareness month for October and the 'Care for your Pair' campaign, which urges women to check their breasts.

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