0121 704 0383 (Julia Kirkwood) 
Other than normal morning sickness everything was going along as planned with my second pregnancy, however quite early on in my pregnancy I began to notice lumps appearing in both breasts. 
I put this down to changes in my body & milk ducts as a result of my pregnancy and so I ignored them for a little while. As they continued to grow I started to become a little more concerned and so after raising this with my midwife, she suggested that I met with my GP who referred me for further investigation. 
I was then seen at Solihull hospital breast clinic and brought back for an ultrasound and follow up biopsies, which subsequently led to my stage 2 bilateral breast cancer diagnosis. 
This absolutely floored me, with no history of breast cancer in the family I was in complete shock. I wasn’t ever expecting to be given this diagnosis, let alone whilst almost 33 weeks pregnant and at the age of 30. 
Everything then started to move incredibly quickly. There were numerous appointments made with a number of specialists in order to make a plan for the delivery of my baby and my subsequent treatment. 
A weekly meeting took place where a lot of my care team were present and my treatment was discussed. There was liaising between my midwives, the obstetrics team, breast nurse, consultant breast surgeon & my oncologist. 
I was kept informed throughout with everything that was planned for me and was given a chance to be involved in decisions too when everything was discussed in my appointments. 
My son was then delivered via C-section at 36 weeks, he was cared for in the neonatal ward by a fantastic team for a short time at Heartlands hospital. 
After my son was born, I also then noticed a small lump in one of my armpits, having mentioned this to my breast care nurse, I was quickly brought in for additional scans and biopsies. It then came back that the cancer was also present in my lymph nodes. I went into a panic, but my breast care nurse reassured me numerous times that this would’t affect the plan for my treatment, it just meant that I presented differently for my surgery. 
It was planned for me to begin chemotherapy 10 days after my son was delivered. I was frightened at the prospect of starting this, but ready to fight back at this disruption in my life, I wanted to be like any normal new mum again, enjoying my newborn and the time with my family. 
I had 6 rounds of FEC-T chemotherapy starting in September 2018, each giving me a slightly different set of side effects, so I did my best to stay as active and eating healthily during my treatment. 
After I finished my chemotherapy in January 2019, I had a few weeks to recover and then had a double mastectomy in February 2019, this also included full axillary node clearance of 23 nodes in total and temporary breast expanders fitted. The recovery from this was hard going, but knowing that I’d had everything removed was what got me through it. 
I then needed 30 sessions of radiotherapy, which fortunately was possible to be done simultaneously, so it was completed after 15 days. 
It was suggested to me to have genetic testing done because of my diagnosis at such a young age and the fact that my Dad had passed away from prostate cancer 6 years prior to my diagnosis. 
It transpired that I carry the BRAC2 gene, so I took it that this was always going be a substantial risk of occurrence for me, it was just a blessing in a way that being pregnant sped up the growth and it was detected much sooner than it could have been. 
Knowing that I have this gene made my decision much easier for also then having my ovaries removed. I was already on hormone suppressants, but this just made more sense for me. 
We have been fortunate enough to complete our family with our two incredible sons, therefore there was never a doubt that if there were steps I could take to reduce additional risk I would take them. 
For my final reconstructive surgery I opted for DIEP surgery, I deliberated a lot about whether to go ahead with this or whether to opt for implants. I had numerous discussions with my breast surgeon & breast nurse who took the time to talk me through everything, putting all my concerns to rest. I was then recommended to a plastic surgeon who was also so helpful in reassuring me about the surgery. 
The main concern I had, was the length of recovery and how this would be possible with 2 small children, along with whether I was going to feel comfortable looking at myself again after the surgery. 
I am beyond pleased that this was the route I chose for my reconstruction, it was tough initially with the recovery, but the end result was so worth it. The recovery was so much better than I anticipated and its just so nice to have something that is all natural to me again. I still have a few more adjustments that are required for me to be complete with my reconstruction, but in comparison to what I’ve been through so far, these should be no problem. 
Going through these past couple of years certainly gave me some very low days, physically and mentally. Some days I felt like I was being robbed of my time with family, but then my whole purpose was to fight through it, so that I could carry on with the time with my family. Keeping that mindset got me through the bad days, I felt like there was no way I was going to allow my life to be disrupted so much by the this. 
It was often difficult to cope with being a mum and patient at the same time. It wasn’t as easy to get the rest that I sometimes needed, as I had 2 small children to look after, but it did me good that I had my children almost dragging me through each day and putting all my focus into caring for them. I have an absolutely wonderful family and set of friends who were there any time I needed them as well to support with any part of my recovery. 
That said the care team have been phenomenal and I can not begin to thank them enough for all their help and support. Being kept informed throughout has made such a difference too, as I felt like I could prepare myself for each stage mentally and have all the questions ready I needed to ask. 
There wasn’t and still hasn’t been a moment where I didn’t feel I had anyone to turn to, no matter how small the question was. 
I’m now happy to say that I can enjoy my time as a mum, like everyone else and there is no longer this enormous dark cloud hanging over me. 
In you need help, get in touch 
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