Rare Revolution is delighted to welcome guest blogger Jodie Harris who is proud to be raising awareness for PTEN
What is PTEN? A bunch of meaningless letters to most people but for me and many others it is a different way of life that no one could ever anticipate.
On the 17th of July 2019, after finding a lump in my breast that felt a bit ‘odd’, I was diagnosed with stage 2 grade 3 breast cancer at the age of 24. This has led my life in a completely different direction compared to how I thought that I would be spending my twenties. The doctors class it as being caught early but because PTEN is the cancer suppressor gene, my tumour is growing fast and has already spread to one lymph node under my arm.
So what now? I’ve already been through my IVF injections and an egg collection as chemotherapy may affect my fertility. To follow is 6 rounds of chemo, a double mastectomy, through choice, radiotherapy and potentially 5 years of hormone therapy. That sounds like a lot for someone my age to deal with but it is the stark truth for anyone with this syndrome. You can sit and tell yourself that it will not happen to you but if and when it does you have to quickly learn how to adapt.
I’m not going to lie - it isn’t easy! There are definitely highs and lows but it’s all about how you deal with them.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first of all.
After my first session of chemo I suffered two seizures. Completely unrelated to the chemo treatment I found out that I have a cavernoma in my brain which is an unusual collection of blood vessels which can haemorrhage. This is what happened in my case and the bleed then caused the seizures. This leads to another negative - I’m not allowed to drive for at least a year! I just got a new car and now I can’t even use it! It is such a minor issue but for a girl who is so used to independence I’m finding it quite hard.
Next, chemo side effects are no joke. In hindsight I’ve had it quite easy as I haven’t felt sick or anything like that but in terms of joint pain and tiredness it is nothing like I expected it to be. When my doctor told me the side effects my first thought was “well everyone surely experiences that in their day to day life, how hard can it be?” Turns out I was very naïve. Although I feel I have had it easy with not experiencing every symptom, it doesn’t make the ones I have had any easier to deal with. I’m now learning to listen to my body and figure out what it can handle.
I’m done complaining now, there are lots of positives in my life that have stemmed from going through cancer that need mentioning
Firstly and most importantly I have a great support system behind me and my family have been there every step of the way with me. For that and so many other things I can never thank them enough. There are also so many people that I have connected with in the PTEN community and through them I have gained so much education and inspiration from hearing all of their different stories.
Going through a life changing experience like I am right now has also made me a little braver I think! I want to make a difference and I am now gaining the confidence to do this. I have just been made a member of the PTEN International Family Council, a position which I am honoured to have and hope to use to spread more awareness and education of this syndrome. I am going to start a petition in order to lower breast screening ages as I don’t want any woman to go through what I am going through at such a young age. I am also thinking about writing a book! I am currently writing a blog but I have been told I should turn it in to a book so this is something I would definitely like to explore!
All in all, being in a situation like I am (having the PTEN mutation and cancer) is scary but I am far from alone. There is a community behind me of fellow sufferers fighting their way through each day and yet there is so much more to be done. There is still more awareness and education needed and I am truly confident that we will get there.
I am proud to be a PTEN warrior!
Rare Revolution Editor