Meet a Member – Laura’s lockdown story

I joined Spencer back in May 2017, I’d entered a competition for my old club, Southampton, and hadn’t trained for about a year so I was woefully unfit! My first session I struggled through a 16x100m set and never looked back! In pre-covid times I would try and train Mondays and Tuesdays at Crystal Palace, Thursdays at Ernest Bevin and Saturdays at Dulwich. I also attend key competitions throughout the year, with short course nationals in Sheffield being my favourite. I’ve been Club Secretary on the committee for a year or so now and have been trying to do my bit to give back to the club that has given so much since I joined.
So slapped wrist for me, I think I’m the last committee member to compile my “meet a member in lockdown”, apologies! I know I’ve been promising this for weeks and weeks now, but better late than never eh!

This has been a long time coming because whilst we’ve all been muddling through life during and post lockdown, at the start of lockdown I made a discovery that then led to a shock and life changing diagnosis and I’ve needed some time to process and come to terms with this before I’ve felt ready to share it with the wider world, but I’m there now so here goes.

In the first week of lockdown, like many people I began working from home. Having to work in a sub-optimal desk and chair set up, I decided to try and make the best of a bad situation and correct my awful posture by wearing a back brace. After wearing it for only a day or two I developed pain and a bad aching sensation in my left armpit – a couple of days later I discovered a lump. A GP referral and several tests later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Things were a bit of a rollercoaster following that with various tests, biopsies and conversations with the consultant happening quickly in short succession. A week after initial diagnosis I got a full diagnosis, and the team looking after me had already put my treatment plan in place which started on 22nd April. Looking back, there wasn’t much chance to stop, think and reflect, everything happened so quickly, but I’m exceptionally grateful for the speed in which things were done.
So to fill in some questions that may be forming. I caught this early. I’m stage 2a, at diagnosis the tumour was small-ish but at 3cm just tipped me into stage 2 rather than stage 1, but there’s only one tumour and the cancer cells hadn’t spread into my lymph nodes, nor spread anywhere else in my body. All great stuff 🙂 The journey to recovery will take a while, but there’s no reason why I shouldn’t make a full recovery.
In terms of treatment, longer term research has shown that triple negative responds better when chemotherapy is given before surgery, as it helps nip the cancer cells in the bud early doors. It will also shrink the tumour and hopefully reduce the amount of surgery that I will need. So the plan is chemo, surgery, radiotherapy. I’ve finished part 1 of chemo – 12 x weekly infusions, and now I’m half way through chemo part 2, which is 4 x fortnightly infusions. At the end of chemo part 1 I got a little ‘chemo holiday’ and got to go to my Mum’s in Devon for a week, which was great.
I’ve been working with a physio who specialises in oncology treatment and under her guidance I’ve been able to maintain an exercise regime, albeit nothing like what I’m used to! But I’m allowed to do 30 mins cardio a day as long as I keep my heart rate at 130bpm or under, and I have a daily stretch programme and a strength programme. She also runs stretch classes via video conference that I dial into twice a week. So no gut busters from Steve for me unfortunately! But I invested in a spin bike, so I do my 30mins cardio on the bike followed by my stretches. I think maintaining this small amount of exercise has been key in how I’ve coped with chemo so far. Fingers crossed I can make it through the last two sessions without any issues!
Whilst this has all been quite shocking and, at 34 years old, very unexpected, I feel there’s a lot to be positive about. My prognosis is good and has been from the start, and I have coped well with chemo. 14 rounds of chemo down and I’ve managed to avoid any sickness, I’ve maintained my weight, and have even managed to hang on to some of my hair, albeit it’s now in a very short bob! The progress checks have showed that everything is moving in the right direction. Chemo part 1 shrank the tumour by 30%, which is great news, and in a few weeks’ time when I’ve finished chemo part 2 I’ll be able to update you all on what effect that has had on things after I’ve had an MRI scan. Keep everything crossed for me please team!

On that bombshell……..! As training begins to start back up again I hope you all enjoy getting back in the pools and getting back into training. It’ll be a while before I’m back at training, and even longer until I’ll be competing again but I look forward to those days coming immensely! I’d also like to thank Abba, Laura M, Amanda, Olegas and Rob for their support over the past few months and for covering all the things I should have been doing on the committee – particularly now that pool time is becoming a thing again, thank you team, I really appreciate it. As I finish chemo and recover my immunity over the coming weeks, hopefully I can emerge from shielding and catch up with some of you in person. In the meantime, take care everyone and continue to stay safe. Miss you all!

Leave a Reply