Family Is The Best Medicine

My name is Julie Sheppard and I am 53 years old. In 2013, I was told I was going to be a grandma and wow was I excited. I had it all planned; I was only working part-time, so I could help my daughter go back to work part time too.  Just before Christmas before Lola was born I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis which sadly got so painful that I had to finish work altogether. I had weekly injections which made me feel quite off for a couple of days, but I soon got used to it. I loved being a grandma and spent as much time as possible with little Lola Bear.

Fast-forward to 2015, I was going to be the big 5-0. Although I didn’t want to celebrate big time, we arranged a quiet family meal together. I was due to have a mammogram in the middle of January as I had yet again found another lump in my breast, but I was used to these as I had very lumpy boobies so had regular checks which were all fine. They took a biopsy and said come back next week for the results.

My husband Shep and I went along to the appt and then the consultant said the words I was not expecting at all: “I’m sorry to have to tell you but you have breast cancer “. All I could say was, “Oh well never mind.” I guess it was the shock.  Shep held my hand so tightly and after making several arrangements to return and being given a date for my op we left the room. We gave each other a hug so tightly, and all I could say was “How are we going to tell the children?” We drove home in a daze, told our son and daughter and I gave Lola the biggest cuddle I could squeeze out. There was no way I was ready to give up. I was going to fight this and kick its butt! I had so much I wanted to do and a lovely little granddaughter I wanted to see grow up. 

I had my operation booked for the week after my 50th birthday and my family arranged lots of surprises for me. Even though I didn’t want a party I got one! It was an amazing birthday and one I will never forget. I had arranged to meet up with my childhood favourite 70’s band Guys n Dolls and a few close fellow ‘fan friends’ the week after, and I was determined that wouldn’t be ruined. I was still going to do this before my op and endless radiotherapy sessions, and we had a fantastic time. Everybody said how calmly I took the news, and that I just got on with it but in my eyes, I couldn’t change anything. This has happened, and I had to deal with it by either fighting or giving up. I was going to fight this with all I had.

I started by changing my diet and what I was eating, as I wanted to do all I could to help myself. I was given the medication Tamoxifen which I have to take for 10 years, so I won’t be finished until 2025. I struggled with this big time, with the horrible side effects - hot flushes, fatigue, tiredness and the biggest worry was the unexplained weight loss. I had every test possible and they have finally put it down to the medication. Those two years after my operation were just awful, and I didn’t feel myself at all. I was losing weight still and had a lot of discomfort in my tummy and generally feeling unwell. Now thinking about it, I guess the menopause had started before I was diagnosed as my periods had already stopped so all the symptoms were there.I went to see a consultant and tests confirmed I had a fair number of fibroids. I chose to have a total hysterectomy to get rid of the fibroids and finally give me a better quality of life - I had been through a lot the last couple of years and I just wanted to feel well again.

So, on the 16th June 2018, a week after Shep and I had got back from a well-deserved and relaxing fortnight in Greece, feeling a little apprehensive and anxious I had a hysterectomy. All went well and I’m now home and doing ok, following doctors’ orders. I have just finished Andrea’s book “Confessions of a Menopausal Woman”, which was a fantastic read which I felt myself relating to a lot of what she said.

I have so much to look forward to my sons getting married next year and I have a huge bucket list to work through. I’m now 3 years clear of breast cancer which is amazing, I joined a women’s gym six months ago and although I have to have a break from it at the moment because of me operation, I can’t wait to get into it. I made new friends and it made me feel good about myself - I was beginning to get ‘me’ back and that felt fabulous. I can’t manage the Race for Life Cambridge 5k this year as it’s too soon after my hysterectomy, but I will be back on form next year, along with the best medicine anyone could have - my family and my little angel, my granddaughter Lola.  


Julie Sheppard