Good Luck and Good Judgement
A huge factor in the likelihood of a positive outcome following a cancer diagnosis is early detection. Given that many cancers are initially symptomless, early detection can often be more luck than judgement. As was the case for Lorraine Cuffe when she took her new baby girl, Leah, for her 6 week check up in October 2020. While with the GP Lorraine mentioned an itchy patch on her breast, thinking it had something to do with the recent birth. Her GP wasn’t too concerned but took the precaution of sending Lorraine for a mammogram. The test showed something was not right so Lorraine had further tests which confirmed it was cancer but it had not spread. The treatment would be a course of radiotherapy but no chemotherapy would be required. As well as baby Leah, Lorraine also has three young boys at home so, even though it was cancer, she was immensely relieved with this diagnosis as this could possibly be undertaken without the boys even knowing what was happening. However, a technician in the lab was not comfortable with the initial result and did some further tests on the sample. Following this Lorraine then got the news that the cancer was a type known as HER2-positive and she would need to do a course of chemotherapy.
Facing into the grueling regime was very difficult but Lorraine found the inner strength from somewhere. With energetic little boys ages 10, 8 and 6, as well as a new born, she says it was her support network, headed up by her husband John and some good friends, that got her through it. The most traumatic incident for the family was the loss of her hair but soon she and the boys got used even to that and life continued as normal as possible. Luckily Leah was a placid little baby who fed and slept well so even though home schooling arrived on top of all this they all got through it together!
Post her chemo Lorraine came to Inis Aoibhinn, Cancer Care West’s residential facility for radiotherapy patients. It’s fair to say that by this time she was at a low point. As the radiotherapy treatment is given daily 5 days per week over a number of weeks Lorraine needed to stay Monday to Friday at the facility. While it was hard being away from the family, Inis Aoibhinn provided an important break for Lorraine from everyday life. Lorraine explains “When I started radiotherapy I felt I could see light at the end of the tunnel. However I was so exhausted I wasn’t sure I had the physical reserves to get through it. This is why the care I received at Inis Aoibhinn was so important to me. I could relax in my own room after my treatment every day. Everything was provided and if I did need anything I only had to ask. When I went home each Friday I was happy to see the children and be “Mammy” for them. Yes it was hard being parted from them, but I quickly learned that it was the best possible thing for everybody. I was so grateful that this was available to me at such a difficult time in my life.”
Lorraine’s cancer could so easily have gone undetected except that she mentioned the itchy patch, her GP didn’t dismiss it and the lab technician was diligent in their work. As a result, her outcome and prognosis are extremely positive. As she and the boys say a little prayer each night Lorraine thinks about what could have been and knows overall she was lucky. Her final reflection though is that it’s not just down to luck you also have to make the call to watch for symptoms, report them and do the follow up. It is Good Luck and Good Judgement.