My name is Tara Byrne and I am from North County Dublin. The start of my cancer journey came as a huge shock on the 1st May 2010.
Why my breast cancer diagnosis was a shock:
– I was just 35 years old.
– I was at the top of the career ladder in the position of Managing Director in a very busy database marketing company. I had been working there for the previous 12 years.
-Though busy in work, I always made time for physical activity, be that aerobic classes, self defence, ballroom dance, yoga, Pilates, power walking and even a course of belly dancing!
– There is no family history of breast cancer in either of my parents’ families.
– I have always had a good diet filled with fruits and vegetables.
Despite all of this I found a lump and it was an aggressive malignant cancer.
So my breast cancer journey began:
My cancer journey went from 1st to 6th gear in Formula One fashion! From the start I didn’t ask the ‘why’ question but rather I told myself that this was hopefully a short term project that I needed to diligently devote my time to in order to get fully better for the long term. I did apply myself by listening and undertaking what I was told to do by the multi disciplinary team looking after me. I used this approach to aid my recovery and manage any unwelcome symptoms throughout the months of extensive surgery, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and hormone therapy treatments.
I had weak times for sure but overall I had few setbacks and treatment progressed in a fast paced fashion with a very busy hospital schedule from May 2010 until August 2011. Since then I continue on medication in tablet form and hospital visits are much less regular at just 6 or so per annum.
Although, at the time of writing, I’m doing great and striving towards an exciting and long future both personally and professionally I have been saddled with one very challenging long term side effect of my cancer treatment and that is lymphoedema. Lymphoedema is a swelling of my hand and forearm and takes work both physically and mentally to manage. I was aware that I was at risk from the day after my surgery and did everything I was told to do to prevent against its onset but lymphoedema had its sight set on me, I guess. I can go for long periods with it under control but for that again it flares up for no obvious reason. It’s a difficult side effect to contend with being supposedly an irreversible condition but I’m always hopeful that there is a research lab somewhere in the world working on lymph node transplants and maybe someday I’ll benefit!
My role with Europa Donna Ireland (EDI):
I became aware of Europa Donna when I met Dympna Watson (Chairperson EDI) upon joining the Plurabelle Paddlers Dragon Boat racing club (www.plurabellepaddlers.com). I have been a member of the Europa Donna Ireland committee since June 2013 and give my time voluntarily as I believe that the reason I received such good treatment for my breast cancer is because people before me gave their time and skills voluntarily to ensure better services were available for my cancer journey. I think we need to keep this cycle of advocating turning, in order to continue to improve services across Ireland and make the journeys of many, that have yet to be diagnosed, easier to manage.