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Image / Self / Health & Wellness / Real-life Stories
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‘It couldn’t be sinister – I was too young, with no family history of breast cancer’

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By IMAGE
18th Nov 2023
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‘It couldn’t be sinister – I was too young, with no family history of breast cancer’

Paula McClean wants to share her story with others, as she can’t stress firmly enough the importance of early detection for breast cancer.

On July 8, 2011, at the age of 42, Paula McClean was diagnosed with Stage II invasive breast cancer.

Several weeks before, she had been at a family wedding where her three little daughters were flower girls. “The night before the wedding, I was applying tan to my arms and chest area when I felt a lump in my left breast. At first, I didn’t worry as I thought it couldn’t be something sinister – I was too young, with no family history of breast cancer. When I felt for it again a couple of weeks later, however, it was still there. So on June 29, I went to my GP.”

The next two weeks took Paula to St Vincent’s Hospital for consultations, mammograms, ultrasounds and biopsies. And then, on July 8, she was told she had breast cancer.

I thought it couldn’t be something sinister – I was too young, with no family history of breast cancer.

“I had a mastectomy the following week. Reconstruction was discussed but I made the personal decision to have delayed reconstruction. I was frightened and overwhelmed by the news that I had breast cancer. At the time all I could think about was my three young girls and my family.”

Treatment

As her tumour was small and the cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes, Paula was advised to have an Oncotype DX test to establish if she required chemotherapy.

“The results were positive,” she remembers. “I did six rounds of chemotherapy. I lost my hair, which was devastating, and which I had loved, as every woman does! It was a very difficult time for all my family, but I ticked off every chemo session until the final one was finished.

I was frightened and overwhelmed… all I could think about was my three young girls

“I started Tamoxifen in January 2012 and I have not looked back. My hair has grown back and I feel fantastic, healthy and happy. Two months after finishing chemotherapy I started running. I had the first of my two surgeries for reconstruction in October, 2012, and my second in March, 2013. I am delighted with the results. I am back running four times a week and running up to 10k. I feel great.”

Early detection saves lives

Paula wants to share her story with others, as she can’t stress firmly enough the importance of early detection. “I honestly didn’t think this could happen to me, but it did. I also want to reassure other women that there is life after breast cancer, and there are lots of people to help you through a very difficult journey.

I feel honoured to be an ambassador for Breast Cancer Ireland and I’m delighted to help them in any way I can. This is a frightening experience for anyone to go through, and the more information, awareness, knowledge and research for a cure the better it will be for women of all ages.”

Paula is a Breast Cancer Ireland Ambassador for their Gift of Time fundraising campaign currently on air, which focuses on giving the precious gift of time to those patients sadly impacted directly by breast cancer, through the funding of world-class research into new therapies and treatments for the disease.

Every cent raised will be channelled into funding additional laboratory time, affording Breast Cancer Ireland-funded research teams the time needed to continue in their ground-breaking work for a possible cure for this disease. To donate, please visit breastcancerireland.com or simply text TIME to 50300 to donate €4 to the Gift of Time campaign.

To donate, go to breastcancerireland.com