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A mother, daughter and granddaughter show how advances in treatment are improving
Mimi Lane, her grandmother Patricia Carey, and her mother Schira Lane from Clonmel, Co Tipperary
Niamh Horan Twitter Email
Patricia Carey can remember the day she discovered she had breast cancer. It was February 2006. “I was having a shower when I felt a lump under my arm. I knew straight away it wasn’t right. I was in shock. I couldn’t get to my doctor fast enough.”
After a BreastCheck exam, Patricia (80) was told she had Stage 3 cancer and it had metastasized. She lay awake that night in dread.
“I started praying. I was thinking of my husband and children, I didn’t want to die.”
She recalls breaking the news to her daughter Schira Lane, who was heavily pregnant at the time.
“I hated having to tell my daughter but immediately she wanted to know what she could do,” an emotional Patricia said. Schira (49) supported her mother each day as she underwent chemotherapy and eventually she was given the all-clear.
Then, in 2020, Schira was on a family holiday skiing. “I had a really strange fatigue. One morning I was in the shower and found a lump under my breast. I went cold. I knew immediately that, like mum, it was cancer. It was everything you read about: it was pea-sized, it was hard, it was small, it wasn’t sore and it was fixed.
“Mum never expressed her fears [about dying] to me and I didn’t go there with any of my children. But the first night I found the lump I spent the whole night thinking ‘these kids are too young, this can’t happen’. After that, I had to get into a positive mindset.”
Having already supported her mother through chemotherapy she said: “I had great faith in the treatments that were available because of mum and I was really aware of my luck, that I was living in 2020 and that more treatments had become available since mum’s diagnosis. I was so mindful of how much things had moved on and I knew I mightn’t need chemotherapy for my type of stage one cancer.”
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Schira waited during lockdown to see if she needed chemotherapy to fight the disease.
“I went to see mum and dad every day. They were cocooning so I sat in the garden and they sat at the kitchen door and, having been through it herself, mum really got what I was going through with the wait. She was so supportive and she gave me so much encouragement. We couldn’t hug but all her love was in her eyes. For the whole summer she just kept smiling with her eyes across the garden at me.
“I was there when I got the call to say I didn’t need chemotherapy because I had a low incidence of the cancer reoccurring. I remember mum’s two little fists going up behind the kitchen glass. I was very aware it was the absolute luck of my time.”
Schira eventually got the all-clear, then both women’s thoughts turned to her daughter Mimi (26).
“When my grandmother got cancer, I was lucky I was only 10 and oblivious,” Mimi said. “But to come home and hear my mum tell me she had it, my world stopped. She has always been a very positive person and so she didn’t tell me she had breast cancer, she said: ‘Mimi I have a little bit of breast cancer.’ We were standing at the island in the kitchen and I had no words. All I could say was ‘oh mum’ and I threw my arms around her.
“I was terrified that I was next because both my grandmother and my mum had it. But because of breakthrough treatments in the last 10 years my mum was able to have genetic testing and it came back clear.
“It was a huge relief. We have always been best friends but breast cancer brought us closer together. Even when mum was having surgery I was shaking and my grandmother said ‘right we are going out for lunch’. She was my best friend that day.”
The three were speaking as they launched the 100K in 30 Days event, which raised €1.7m for Breast Cancer Ireland last year. Organisers are calling on everyone to join the #pinkarmy and take part in the June event. Registration is now open at www.100kin30days.ie.
The launch comes after reports in recent days that a “treasure trove” of clues about the causes of cancer have been found by researchers in Cambridge University, which will pave the way for better treatments and strategies to beat the disease.
Patricia, a former nurse, said: “People say there is so much cancer now but it is because it’s being diagnosed more and earlier with modern technology. Far more people recover from cancer than don’t and that’s not said enough. It’s why all this research and fundraising is so important.”
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