CureTalk Interview with Amanda Russell, Breast Cancer Survivor, and Blogger
Meet Amanda Russell, a breast cancer survivor with an amazing spirit and confidence par excellance. I have been connecting with cancer patients and I should say that Amanda has tremendous strength and positivity about her. You can read Amanda’s blogs at welcometocworld and experience her journey with her.
CureTalk interviewed Amanda Russell and here she talks about latest breast cancer drug TDM-1, mastectomy, breast reconstruction, and coping with it all.
Hope you enjoy the read!
Me: Tell us a little about yourself.
Amanda: I am an interior designer. My two children are in their early twenties, I am a single mother, and they cared for me through my treatment and recovery.
Me: I am sure you have heard about the new miracle drug for breast cancer TDM-1. Can you share your feelings about this with our readers?
Amanda: It’s exciting that there are new breakthroughs in cancer treatment being made. My cancer might not respond to a miracle cure so I feel it’s up to me how I deal with my cancer diagnosis. Taking responsibility for my care and learning to live with the cancer diagnosis went a long way towards dealing with the anxiety of survival.
Me: You had to make some tough decisions regarding the care you received. Where did you turn for advice?
Amanda: I found the staff at the hospital was empathetic and generous, taking time to explain treatment. Going on-line to read about research as well as cancer charities and blogs were helpful, it’s a big subject, I felt I could never become an expert. It was helpful talking to people about their experiences as either cancer patients or careers. My friends were always there to support me when decision-making was tough. I saw the experience as a challenge I had to get through as best I could; it helped keep my mind focused on the practicalities.
Me: Did you feel apprehensive about chemotherapy?
Amanda: Chemotherapy didn’t worry me at all, I had helped a friend through his cancer treatment, so I was familiar with what it involved, I felt calm. I knew I had to go through it and I was advised about all the support there was to help me. My children are young adults in their early twenties, still studying; it was a demanding role for them to become caregivers in charge, looking after a very sick mother, not really something you prepare them for! It was tough for us all, but in spite of what we were dealing with we all blossomed and found it a positive experience. When you needed it, there was always support. At the simplest level I found the Macmillan booklets supportive, they have lot of the bases covered.
Me: You had to change drugs when your tumor did not shrink during your first cycle of chemotherapy. Was it very disappointing? What would you like to tell other women in similar condition?
Amanda: Of course, I was convinced I’d be a star patient and my tumor would shrink dramatically. Treatment for cancer and it’s various draw backs is a steep learning curve, my grasp of treating cancer was fairly simplistic, for me, I dealt with each change in treatment just as another twist in the road towards recovery. After the failure of chemotherapy, I became far more interested in my particular cancer. Yes, it was disappointing being taken off the chemotherapy because the tumor didn’t respond, I was also developing neuropathy, deafness and loss of balance. I feel I am lucky to be here and I will make the most of my time. It works for me.
Me: You opted for reconstructing your breasts after tumor removal surgery. Was it a difficult decision to make?
Amanda: To start with, I was going to have a mastectomy with the DIEP reconstruction after radiotherapy. Both my consultant and the operation were changed as the oncoplastic consultant felt he could give me a superior option with reconstruction and reduction as well as saving the nipple on my breast with the tumor. He saw the psychological aspect of healing as very important, he felt there was a huge advantage having as few operations as possible so I could emerge from the experience in a better frame of mind and get on with life again more quickly. He spent a lot of time explaining the procedure to me, I feel very privileged and happy. Because the tumor was close to the nipple even when I went into the operation they weren’t sure that they would be able to do the operation as planned. The oncoplastic consultant reassured me he had scheduled the whole day for my operation so there was plenty of time to do what ever had to be done.
Me: If you had to do it all over again, would you have changed anything?
Amanda: I would ask for more help from family and friends. I have learnt people really like to be involved, which includes being told what would help. I would use more of the services on offer, like counseling, massage etc and go to The Maggie Centre as well as go through The Healing Journey at Paul’s Cancer Support Centre. I would be kinder to myself.
Me: What advice do you have for young women like yourself dealing with breast cancer?
Amanda: Stay in the moment, focus on now. Laugh often. Treat yourself kindly, you are special and deserve to be treated in that way. It helped me to have a well-developed sense of the absurd. A journey I wouldn’t choose but there were wonderful and unexpected experiences along the way.
Thank you Amanda. It was great to connect with you.