June 5, 2023
Kirsty Hanberry, from Sheffield, certainly had a lot of plates to spin in October 2020. The owner of a thriving nursery business, she also had two daughters and a stepson to look after plus a recently launched Play Café to manage. In that same month Kirsty also found thickened area of tissue in her breast.
“I knew straight away”, she said. “It wasn’t so much a lump, as an area of thickened tissue that I hadn’t noticed before. After a sleepless night, I went to the GP who referred me straight away for assessment. Within three weeks I was diagnosed with Stage 3, Grade 3 breast cancer, which had also spread to my lymph nodes. It was a huge shock to all of us.”
Kirsty was advised to have 6 rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the tumour and then surgery to remove the breast tumour and lymph nodes. Her chemotherapy lasted 18 weeks during which Kirsty struggled with side effects of feeling nauseous, exhaustion and hair loss.
“The first operation to remove the tumour took place in April 2021, just as Covid 19 was starting to spread in the UK. That made a bad situation so much worse as I couldn’t have anyone with me for my surgery,” remembers Kirsty.
“The surgery seemed to go well however I ended up being recalled twice for further surgery as tests revealed that the surgery hadn’t removed enough healthy tissue surrounding the cancerous tissue – this is known as ‘clear margin’. During my surgery, it was revealed that I had two different kinds of tumour – one a fast growing one that had responded well to chemotherapy and another grade 1 tumour that was slow growing and tricky to remove.”
Kirsty ended up having five surgeries in seven weeks including a Quadrantectomy, which is a partial mastectomy which removes around a quarter of the breast. 15 rounds of radiotherapy followed, all undertaken alone due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“Obviously this was all incredibly challenging for us as a family. My cancer had turned everything upside down for all of us really. In addition, schools had closed during the pandemic and I was trying to home school my two girls through my chemo and surgeries. To say things were hard would be an understatement!”
“I’d approached Cavendish during my chemo to see if any support was available for the girls. Like all mums, I didn’t really think about myself, I just wanted support for them. After an assessment, both girls had a course of art therapy which was absolutely the right thing. It was all virtual due to Covid however the team at Cavendish were so creative with how it was delivered. One of the girls also returned later for some face-to-face therapy sessions at the Tim Pryor Centre. I was signposted to some of the online courses – I did the anxiety course and the nutrition course. Both were life-changing for me and gave me back an element of control that I didn’t have during any other part of my treatment.”
Kirsty is now cancer free but is still feeling the effect of her treatment both physically and mentally. She has just finished a course of Abemaciclib, a drug which inhibits cancer growth. She continues to struggle with tiredness, the effects of medically induced menopause and symptoms of lymphoedema. Despite this, she is feeling positive about the future.
“I’ve reduced the amount of stress in my life now and I’m getting in training for a big fundraising challenge I’m undertaking for Cavendish Cancer Care later this year. I was keen to give something back to Cavendish after all the help they gave me. I really appreciated the ‘whole family approach’ at Cavendish and the fact the service is so local. I like being part of the Cavendish family and I know I could get help again if I needed it. I’d recommend Cavendish to anyone – I don t think there’s any other place where they support the whole family like this.”
In October Kirsty will be undertaking a trek along the Inca Trail in Peru, including the famous Machu Picchu, alongside her sister, her nephew and his friend. Kirsty, her sister Emma and nephew will all be raising money for Cavendish Cancer Care so that even more people can receive support just like Kirsty and her family did.
JustGiving link – https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/kirstyperu?utm_source=Sharethis&utm_medium=fundraising&utm_content=kirstyperu&utm_campaign=pfp-email&utm_term=20a8d6769f7544fc9266486d6a13afe3.