After being diagnosed with breast cancer at 35, Tilly Reid has decided to reclaim her life by doing things that make her happy and working hard to support her mental health.
When Tilly found a lump on her left breast, she went to her local GP to get it checked. The doctor said that she probably had nothing to worry about as her period was due and like many Black women, Tilly’s breasts were dense. She was still referred to the breast clinic.
At this appointment an ultrasound and a biopsy were done. Tilly again was told that she had nothing to worry about. However, when the results came back Tilly was told that she had triple negative breast cancer.
“You know, you get lumps checked in case it is cancer. But I never thought that it would be,” she adds “I thought I was going to die, I didn’t know anything about cancer.”
Tilly was not alone in thinking this. Cancer being related to certain death is a common misconception in many communities. After chemotherapy, a lumpectomy, egg retrieval and radiotherapy Tilly now shows no evidence of disease and is in remission, and has a new outlook on life.
She notes that due to nerve damage from treatments, her mobility is not what it used to be. But she has been working hard to get stronger. “I couldn’t even walk because my nerves were damaged so badly.” In addition to physical changes, Tilly states her mental health has changed as well and describes now having anxiety after cancer. “Post cancer I’ve got anxiety, but I do stay in control of it.” Anxiety flares up in new situations where Tilly will meet new people. But to combat this, she takes the time to mentally prepare for these situations.
She also describes days where she feels down but does not allow herself to stay there. “I allow myself to accept how I feel but I also tell myself that I can’t stay in this feeling. The world is still orbiting, and I need to get on with it.”
Tilly credits her family and friends for supporting her throughout her treatment. But in addition to that, Tilly says that Black Women Rising has made all the difference. “The girls in Black Women Rising just get it. Friends and family can only understand to a certain extent. But in the support groups I can speak freely, and they understand.”
Tilly’s top advice for those who have just been diagnosed is to take it day by day. To listen to your medical team and to make the decisions that feel right to you. “Remember that every journey is unique.”