I’m Karen (Kazzie), I was diagnosed in July 2013 with invasive ductal carcinoma grade 1 breast cancer.

In 2013 I was enjoying my life bringing up my three amazing children, seeing friends enjoying the gym. I had just run Race For Life in great time and was feeling so well and fit.

I had an early invite (not the party type) for a mammogram as they were trying to lower the age from 50 to 47. I spoke with my Mum about it and she reassured me it was an easy procedure, so along I went, and yes it was fine and all done very easily. I had no worries about anything. To be honest, I hadn’t checked myself that much, I thought it was just lumps. I never knew there were all different signs indicating there could be cancer.

I was called back for a second mammogram. I still wasn’t concerned as I felt great and so well in myself. I cannot go back fully to that fortnight of hell as it was so traumatic I had a biopsy and was told to come back in two days and to expect the worst. I even asked, “are you sure you have the right person I’m absolutely fine”.

My whole world collapsed around me. What if I have got it? What if I have to have treatment? What do I tell my children, how do I tell my children? But my biggest fear was what if I die? My children need me; it was such a traumatic time. My friend Mandy was with me, she was my rock. I couldn’t tell my Mum or the children as I didn’t know myself. Days dragged, every hour felt so long. I felt so sick, tired, and very emotional. I just wanted to know so I could get on with what was next – blood tests, nuclear medicines, MRI scans galore. I didn’t know where I was or what I was doing.

Ultimately I had to have a mastectomy as I had four tumours right at the back of my breast. My niece Laura came and lived with me for a few months to help me and look after the children, making sure that they got to and from school. Family & friends were amazing, from doing weekly shopping to collecting children from school. I felt so guilty and hated asking for help. I did struggle with it as I’m very independent. The strangest thing though was that I felt so well, yet I had cancer!

At least I had some great news, that cancer had not progressed to my lymph glands so my treatment was to have five years of tamoxifen. Mandy and I came out of the Forest Centre and hugged and cried. I still hadn’t grasped my journey it was still very surreal and mind-blowing.

Tamoxifen journey one tiny tablet seems easy, right? Far from it, hot flushes constantly, sleepless nights, painful bones, joints, and weight gain. I already struggled with depression so that became worse again, also anxiety decided to show its face.

Cancer has changed me. I know not a day goes by that I don’t think about it. I will not allow it to ruin my life any more than it has. I found Breast Friends Northamptonshire on FaceBook as I was desperate to find somebody who had been through it and that gets it how I was feeling, so scared of it all. It has been a lifeline for me and helped me so much, everyone is very different but we all have one thing in common, we all support each other and have some great times together.

I live my life to the full, cancer showed me it can get anyone. My consultant said to me someone was looking down on you because you wouldn’t have made it to 50 if this early mammogram invite had never arrived. That was a hard thing to swallow, but he was so right.

I am grateful every day and try and smile through even on bad ones.