ELLEN DANIELLE DUFFY
Diagnosis: HER2+++ Stage 2 Grade 3 Breast Cancer
Instagram username: @ellen_danielle
It’s been harder than I imagined putting into words what has happened over the last 3 months. A cancer diagnosis will do that to you. I was diagnosed on Thursday 21st June 2018 at 28-years-old after an ultrasound, mammogram and needle aspiration biopsy revealed a 7.5cm cancerous lump in my left breast. My medical report read: HER2 +++ ER0 PR0 stage 2 breast cancer.
I count the first two weeks surrounding my diagnosis the most difficult and surreal weeks of my life to date; I barely slept, I struggled to concentrate at work, I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore and I questioned ‘why me?’. The answer to that question really is ‘why not me?’. Cancer doesn’t care where you come from, what you do, your age or the path you’re on. For myself, I was living in north London, working as a freelance graphic designer for a number of fashion offices and making plans for the summer ahead. Cancer uproots your life, it turns everything upside down and forces a new perspective on the things you had previously overlooked or not even begun to think about. Within weeks of my diagnosis, my boyfriend and I had packed our life into boxes, moved the 50+ miles to be close to my family during my treatment and made the decision to undergo IVF to increase our chances for a family in the future.
There’s nothing quite like a cancer diagnosis to really demonstrate selfless human kindness. Since my diagnosis, the love and support I’ve received from friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers has been overwhelming. Take for example, the 10/10 boyfriend who dutifully gives you your daily injections without complaint and shaves his head to reassure you that losing your hair doesn’t need to be scary. The family and friends who fly across the world and drive all over the country to be there for you, who call to check in and send countless messages and surprise care packages to show their support. Sure, there are those who try their best but fail to understand, those you thought would be there for you but sadly disappoint, but the reality is many will try really hard to be there for you and those are the ones you will share your life with throughout and beyond cancer.
I discovered an online community that I never knew existed pre-diagnosis. A community like no other that demonstrates strength and solidarity and is a testament to the power that women supporting women can have. You’re welcomed with open arms by women you’ve never met, no questions asked and no judgements. These women become like family and an integral part of your everyday life; your new ‘normal’. We laugh together, we cry together, we celebrate each others highs and are there for each other in our lowest and most impossible moments. Women who inspire you through their own words and actions to tell your story.
I know that the next year will be the most challenging of my life so far. I’ve mourned the life I had pre-cancer and embrace the life I have now and will have after. Every day counts. I vow to take something good from the year I’m embarking on; I openly document the stages of my treatment on Instagram and have started a small clothing company and blogging platform called Brave Collective to raise awareness of cancer in young adults.
Resources that helped Ellen:
Instagram – I’ve met the most incredible group of women through this platform! Hmm, in terms of things I found helpful I’d say… the You, Me & The Big C podcast was one of my main go to’s when I was diagnosed, it helped me come to terms with my illness. There’s also a book that’s just come out called F*ck you cancer by Deborah James which I’ve bought but haven’t read yet and it’s meant to be so good! There’s a girl who set up cancerchicks.co.uk while she was going through treatment and I love reading her beauty tips.