‘Every little thing is significant’
FUJAIRAH // It was shortly after Christmas that Sally McQuinn found a lump in her left breast.
Weeks later, after a mammogram and three biopsies, tests concluded that the 46-year-old English lecturer at the University of Sharjah had stage two breast cancer.
“By the time I had the third biopsy, I was already feeling like it must be cancer based on what doctors were saying they suspected,” said the American, who lives in Fujairah.
“The first thing that ran through my mind was ‘this is awful’ and I cried and wondered what it was going to be like dealing with a deadly disease in my body.
“I wasn’t scared but I was sad and then started wondering, ‘now what?’”
As with many women in her situation, Ms McQuinn thought breast cancer was something that would never happen to her.
“There was no history of breast cancer in my family and I didn’t really think I was at a high risk,” she said. “I knew what the average woman might know - that we should examine ourselves and check for any strange changes but I wasn’t expecting the lump I felt to turn up malignant.”
Scans showed Ms McQuinn had four tumours in her left breast and cells had spread to the lymph nodes under her arm.
She believed that had she not had the mammogram when she did, the outcome could have been worse.
Ms McQuinn had a bilateral mastectomy in March followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
“I just finished all my treatment and I feel very relieved,” she said. “I am regaining my strength and stamina.
“The doctors will check me every four months for this first year, because they say the most vulnerable time for recurrence is within the first year of a diagnosis. I am thinking optimistically and being more proactive about my health than ever.
“There is nothing great about having cancer but I will say that going through brought my family closer than ever.
“I feel like a champion now, confident in the knowledge I have survived a terrible ordeal.”
Ms McQuinn urged all women to be on the lookout for any small change that could signify cancerous cells.
“The thing I didn’t realise is that any little change can be a sign something is wrong,” she said. “I urge every woman to be familiar with her body and talk to a medical professional about any changes at all, no matter how small.
“Screening is key in finding it early, so ladies should not be shy to do self-exams and have doctors do exams. Lastly, insurance companies need to realise that mammograms are vital for women over 40, and these should be covered fully.”
Updated: October 2, 2016 04:00 AM