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Welcome to WOMEN WHO INSPIRE US, a continuing series featuring women around the world that inspire us at L'Couture and we want to share their story with you.
October is breast cancer awareness month. At LC, we are doing our bit to raise awareness and funds for a cause very close to our hearts. For the month of October, we are supporting #PINKtober, in partnership with Brest Friends and the Al Jalila Foundation with the mission to save lives by increasing awareness , education, research & offering emotional and financial support to patients with breast cancer.
This week, we are honoured to be sharing Rachel Coats’ story. Rachel tells us about her journey with breast cancer. Her positive attitude is truly inspiring and we hope by sharing this story this helps anyone going through something similar and encourages you to examine yourself regularly.
Hi guys, my name is Rachel Coats and I am a friend of Lyndsay aka the CEO/Girl Boss of the fabulous L’Couture.
I was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer on Friday 13th September 2013- I was 26. I was diagnosed at a secondary stage – it had spread to my right hip bone and my spine as well as the primary tumour in my left breast. For those that don’t know, Secondary cancer is incurable, but treatable.
I went through a week of radiotherapy and then 6 cycles of chemotherapy which ended in January 2014. Chemo had its ups and downs. I had an infection which resulted in a 4 day hospital stint- which then resulted in an injection after chemo which made my body ache for a few days, I lost nearly 2 stone in weight, I had a blood transfusion, I lost my hair to name a few things…. In spite of all this, I don’t look back on this time and think it was awful. I had a great boyfriend - my now husband, a family of 5 at home - my mum, dad and 3 amazing sisters – and I met my “spice girls” as I now call them, made up of 2 amazingly brave girls who endured a similar path and our pharmacist – who has been by our side through it all.
I struggled after chemo ended, as a lot of people have that GREAT I’m DONE moment, but I didn’t.
I kept going – my motto is – I could go out and get hit by a bus, but I don’t wake up every day thinking that – so just get on with it!!
In October 2015, my husband Adam and I trekked the Great Wall of China - an amazing thing I would have never have done before my diagnosis.
Fast forward to the following April (2016) I had grown my hair to a length that meant I could annoy my sister to put some extensions in. So, I got those and was swishing my hair about. But I couldn’t forget about the fact I had been having headaches, I had asked about these previously, and everything seemed normal, my coordination – bloods were fine etc.
These headaches did not shift for a week or so. One morning, I woke up, went into the shower and vomited - this wasn’t normal and I was taken to hospital. I was scanned and the doctor confirmed that the breast cancer had moved into my brain. I was immediately put on steroids and fitted for a mask to get radiotherapy on my head.
And my doctor told me I’d lose my hair again- after all that swishing with my new long locks!
I started radiotherapy on my 29th birthday, 4th May, and had it for 5 days.
In November 2016, I was LC girl boss Lyndsay’s bridesmaid and it was such an honour. Her wedding was beautiful and we had a week experiencing all the amazing things Dubai has to offer.
Once home, I got engaged on 19th November 2016, and began planning my own wedding.
Fast forward to June of 2017 and again I was having headaches and feeling dizzy and had expressed my concerns.
The night before my hen, in Las Vegas, I had terrible sickness and what felt like vertigo, however felt better after I had been sick.
I went ahead on my hen – had theeee most amazing time! When I got home, I said to my nurses that I wasn’t happy and they sent me for some tests and started me on steroids.
The MRI showed that the radiotherapy last year hadn’t done much to the tumour in my head and this was now swelling and pressing against my cerebellum, hence the dizziness.
I went to speak to the Neurologist on Monday 3rd July (2 weeks after getting home from my hen) and he said – “ok, we are going to cut the tumour out” and I said ok…. To which he replied “How’s Thursday?”
So, there I was, now getting brain surgery!!
So, they ramped up my steroids and put me to surgery on the Thursday and I got home from the hospital on the Tuesday.
Anyone who has experienced steroids know that they are a total wonder drug – but they can grow you one heck of a belly & beard!! Haha!
My next mission was to get wedding ready!! Which I did – and married my best friend (10 weeks after brain surgery) on 18th September in Cyprus. I had my 3 sisters, and my friends Jenny, Susan and of course Lyndsay as my bridesmaids. We had the most wonderful day.
By November of that year, the headaches had returned and I got scanned. The Neurosurgeon got me back and said the tumour had grown back and he wanted to perform the brain surgery again, which he did. I knew about this in early December but didn’t go into hospital until the 12th January 2018. The surgery was performed and successful, but I now have a gap in my skull where the fluid that protects the brain can get out of. So, I have a little egg shape on the back of my skull that makes me dizzy if something presses against it. That was quite a hard time for me, my face & skin was stretched so far because of the steroids and I put on weight and I was dizzy daily whilst I got used to it. It’s hard to deal with when it’s not your fault.
In the May of 2018, I started on a tablet form of chemo, which meant I took 5 tablets in the morning and 5 at night.
These helped, but can aid the chance of getting blood clots. The end of September I’d had a sore side for a month or so but it had gone away. One night though I could barely breathe, and the more I fought for breath the more panicked I was, making it worse. I slept sitting upright and then got a CT scan the next day, which confirmed I had a blood clot in my lung. I had 2 weeks of a blood thinning injection and now take a blood thinning tablet daily. I don’t think I realise the danger of what happened, that could’ve killed me.
Everything was going ok until March of this year, I had been on holiday with the in-laws and we had a great week, but my arm/shoulder was sore when for example, I got up from the sunbed. I put it down to not having my own bed/the plane journey etc but once home and it got worse, I requested a scan. Even morphine wasn’t touching the pain. So, after my scan, my doctor got me in and said I have a bit of cancer at my breast bone and he wants to give my original cocktail of chemotherapy. Which normally isn’t allowed but because it had been 7 years since my original treatment, they asked for permission, got the go-ahead, and I started chemo on 29th June of this year. I feel things have been a lot slower due to what’s going on in the world just now, but I am thankful that things are happening. I got a scan last week and am getting a phone appointment with my doctor this week to discuss how its gone and next steps. This year has been SO difficult for everyone, so I’m praying for some positive news to end the year.
This disease effects all ages – something that I didn’t really get. People being treated next to me would gasp when I sat down – and not my mum. I have done MANY things that I probably wouldn’t have done had I not got my diagnosis. I have travelled to a lot of places, Paris, China, Rome, Las Vegas, Spain, Australia, Cyprus and Dubai (to name a few). I have seen the importance of living each day and making so many memories.
I think a positive attitude is a MASSIVE factor in how I’ve dealt with this.
When writing this, I’m like omg that’s A LOT – but when you try to cover everything that’s happened over the past 7 years, it is, and I forget that. So, I hope your still awake reading this and got to the end. We made it.
Lots of love & check those boobs/pecs!!
Strongest girl I know love you Rachel xxxxx
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