The first time Njeri Jacintah felt a lump growing in her right breast, she assumed it was normal because she was at the peak of adolescence and her breasts were still growing. She went for her first check-up in July 2015 and discovered the lump was not cancerous, however, the doctors recommended surgery.
In January 2016, she felt a lump on the same breast again and it was bigger than the first one. When a test was done, the tumour was found to be phyllodes, which are large, fast-growing masses that form from the periductal stromal cells of the breast. Many phyllode tumours are not cancerous but the doctors recommended mastectomy if the tumour reoccurred.
Three months later, the tumour was back, and this time, there was redness on the breast, itchiness, rashes and visible veins. When she saw a doctor, a mastectomy was carried out. The doctor found out that her tumours was cancerous and had become so big that it had replaced the normal tissue cells of the breast.
A month after her mastectomy, Jacintah felt a lump on her breast again and after a check-up, the doctors told her that it was only a fluid accumulation which would end. Jacintah’s diagnosis made her realise that cancer can attack anyone at any age. So, she decided to share her story to encourage others going through a similar predicament and educate people on the benefits of early screening.
Since the cause of her cancer has not been established, moreover, no one in her family lineage has ever been diagnosed with cancer, Jacintah was advised to watch her diet and avoid alcohol.
In a post on her Instagram page, Jacintah talks about how living with one breast changed how she feels about her body.
I was only 20 years old when I discovered I had a tumour. It was more of a hardening on the top of the breast. It seemed higher and more firm than the rest of the skin, but like many young women I think I believed I was invisible. So I pushed it to the back of my mind.
I couldn’t help but think, why me? We’d no history of the disease in our family.
When I was getting ready to have that surgery done, all I could think was how much I wanted that breast off. It was the part of me that was carrying the disease and I just wanted it gone.
When I saw myself after the mastectomy for the first time, it was very odd. I was all bandaged up, so it took a few days, but when that came off and I saw my new body for the first time, it felt weird to see such a massive gap. I was emotional, I think because there is that attachment you have with your breasts and the link they have with being a woman, and it was difficult having that taken away from me so suddenly.
The only way have managed to deal with it is by taking each day at a time, rather than focusing on the longer term or worrying about what’s going to come in the future.
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