When Relationship Manager Emma discovered she had breast cancer on 22nd June 2023, her world turned upside down. Emma had been with Fleximize for three and a half years, travelling in her spare time to places like Budapest, and enjoying life with her teenage daughter, dog, and three cats. But a suspicious lump caused her concern.
“I wasn’t surprised when I found out,” Emma explains. “I think, I knew. The lump was quite large, and I just had a gut feeling that it was going to be cancer. So, although I was upset when they told me, I had already prepared myself for the worst.”
October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Emma is kindly sharing her story to highlight how – sadly – it can happen to almost anyone. There are approximately 55,900 cases of breast cancer each year in the UK, and although rare, it’s even possible for men to be diagnosed with breast cancer (around 370 men each year are diagnosed on average).
“My journey so far has been up and down. Some days I feel okay, then others I feel like I’ve had the life sucked out of me. There are so many side effects of the treatment that I often find they knock me for six when I least expect it! I like to keep working as it gives me something to focus on. I also home-school my daughter a few days a week, so it’s a lot to manage but keeps me focused and my brain active.”
The one thing that Emma highlights is the loneliness of the disease due to having such a poor immune system. Cancer treatments can cause a drop in white blood cells, the body’s way of fighting bacteria and viruses, which leaves people vulnerable to other illnesses.
“It can be really lonely,” she says. “The world keeps spinning, but I have to be careful where I go and what I do due to having no immune system. I miss being social and seeing everyone.”
Emma started a TikTok account to document her cancer treatments and to connect with others. She shares her journey, from hair loss and wearing wigs, to videos of her treatments. In one video, she shares how challenging it can be to do makeup with a bald head, and in others, she shows the long process of having chemotherapy in hospital.
“The treatments are exhausting, as I have to go to the hospital for chemo every week. The last three months have gone on forever, but I try and focus on the milestones, like the end of each round of treatment. There are so many variables with the outcomes that I find the lack of control very difficult, but I’m learning to adapt to that.”
Emma explains that the treatments take a lot out of her, but she’s keen to get back to her hobbies of spending time with friends and family, gaming, and dog walks. “Prior to all this, I was running my 15-year-old daughter around, though I don’t think that’s a hobby”, she jokes.
“I try not to dwell on the negatives; it’s not always easy, but I’m fighting as hard as I can for my daughter, my friends, my family, and myself. I want to live, and not ready for the next life yet!”
Emma’s experience highlights how important it is to get checked when any changes or lumps occur. The World Health Organisation lists a range of risk factors, though sometimes the only risk factor is being female. The NHS says that as many as 1 in 7 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
Despite the challenges of treatment, Emma is able to talk about what she’s learned from the experience.
“I can’t just pick one thing that I’ve learnt! I’ve learnt more medical terminology and biology in the last four months than I have in my whole life. I’ve learnt that I have more fight in me than I knew, I’ve learnt that it's okay not to keep the house clean, or it's okay to get my daughter to make her own dinner when I feel rubbish, or that it’s okay to say no and put myself and my recovery first."
“I’ve learnt that I have a whole army of love and support which overwhelms me and boosts that fight. I’ve also learnt that there are so many things I want to do - I wish I’d travelled and seen the world more – something I hope to do once this is over.”
The whole Fleximize team are wearing pink and holding a fundraiser to show support and raise awareness for Emma and Wear it Pink, making the whole office a sea of different shades of pink.
Good friend and colleague Sarah, who has been by Emma's side throughout her journey, shares “We wanted to show as much support as we could for Emma. Our fingers and toes are crossed for her recovery, and we wanted to do something to show her we're all cheering her on from the sidelines – and the Wear it Pink event seemed like the perfect opportunity.”
As for Emma, the one piece of advice she gives to others right now rings true for us all, cancer or not.
Live, take chances, take every opportunity, don’t put off what you can do tomorrow – tomorrow is not promised!
To support Emma through her breast cancer journey, follow her on TikTok.