Hattie was 27 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She coped by finding the positives in her situation - including having her name on an F1 car!
I was told not to worry
Last year, I found a lump on my breast. I didn’t think anything of it at first and waited a few days to see if it would go away. When it started to bug me, I decided to go to the doctor.
My GP said it was probably nothing, but that they would send me off for a second opinion at the breast clinic. A couple of days later I was having an ultrasound and a mammogram.
When I was told they needed to take a biopsy, I started to feel uneasy. I didn’t know what a biopsy was, or what it was testing for. I had gone by myself as my GP had reassured me it was just a precautionary appointment.
I was told that the sample taken from my biopsy was suspicious. Then I had a horrible week’s wait before I found out my diagnosis. On 1 July it was confirmed that I had breast cancer.
Everything happened so quickly, I don’t really remember the first two weeks after my diagnosis. But in a way, that was good. There wasn’t any time to be worried.
Recovering after surgery was the hardest part
I was keen to get started on my treatment and not wait around any longer. I think the news hit my family harder than me. My mum was with me when I was diagnosed, and my dad came down soon after that.
My treatment ended up being a mixture of different things. I started on four rounds of AC chemotherapy and Docetaxel, but after my second round I had problems with my liver. It took me a month and a half to recover. My doctor said that we couldn’t keep waiting around, so we discussed having surgery alongside the chemotherapy.
Within a week I had a consultation with the surgeon and a mastectomy on my left side with reconstruction. Initially, losing a part of your body feels like a shock, but I knew I needed to have the procedure for my own health.
It was the first time I’d ever had surgery and I found the six weeks of recovery the hardest part. I couldn’t do much and my mum and my boyfriend had to look after me. I’m terrible at sitting in bed and not doing anything – I always want to be up and about. Not being able to leave my house was awful.
I found my support on Instagram
I was always the youngest person on the ward. I didn’t meet anyone around my age while going through my chemotherapy. It was hard as I found it difficult to connect with anyone. I also found that people felt more sorry for me because I was younger.
I started to try and find people like me on social media. A girl on Instagram reached out to me as she was also going through cancer treatment. We ended up creating a WhatsApp group with about 20 other young women in their 20s who had cancer.
It’s really helped me feel less alone and it made everything feel more manageable. If I have a problem or if I’m worried about something, I message the group. Nine times out of 10, someone will reply saying that they’ve felt the same way.
Having a routine kept me sane
I’m quite a mentally strong person and I’ve never felt I’ve lost control during my diagnosis. I’m still going through radiotherapy and I am aware that when the appointments stop, I’ll feel more on my own.
I try to manage these thoughts by keeping myself busy. I always make sure that I have fun plans to look forward to. I’m also still at my job, having worked throughout most of my treatment. It’s something I really needed to keep myself feeling normal.
I found that when I was home I started to spiral, Googling things that I shouldn’t have and feeling alone. Going into work, having things to do and keeping to a routine kept me sane.
F1 has helped turn a negative into a positive
My family and friends have been incredibly supportive. My boyfriend’s uncle, David, even did a huge charity walk to mark his 60th birthday. He walked from Ipswich to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for the F1 Spanish Grand Prix raising money for Breast Cancer Care and other charities that have supported me in my treatment.
Because of the F1 connection, I was thrilled when I was told that SportPesa Racing Point F1 team car would have my name on one of their cars at Silverstone. I never thought something like this would happen to me.
I've always tried to take whatever is negative and turn it into a positive. My diagnosis has allowed me to have incredible opportunities, such as having my name race around a track on a F1 car. Getting to this point with my journey feels like such an achievement.
You’re stronger than you think
Something that’s really helped me is staying active. I try to walk once a day, run once a week and swim – it's helped my endorphins stay high and I think it’s helped me manage the fatigue. Find things that will keep you busy and positive and you will get through it.
I would tell anyone who is newly diagnosed to remember that your body is amazing and stronger than you think. Make sure that you research, ask questions and learn about what’s happening to you. It’ll help you to feel like more than just a patient being constantly prodded.
Breast Cancer Care and SportsPesa Racing Point F1 Team have been working together since 2017, raising over £212,000 to date. The money raised has helped the charity fund life-changing support for people affected by breast cancer in the UK.