Orla Maguire from Dungloe tells DonegalWoman.ie how her battle with breast cancer has filled her life with positivity.
Dungloe woman Orla Maguire couldn’t wait to share the happy news yesterday that she has beaten breast cancer.
The 30 year old fought through almost eight months of chemotherapy and surgery to be told this week that it was all a success.
Orla was diagnosed with breast cancer last November, but the upbeat young woman quickly decided to use her diagnosis to help others. She set up a Facebook blog called My Right Tata and bravely charted her journey to share an honest and realistic account of her journey.
Orla had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery on her right breast at the beginning of July. Yesterday, the good news came that the tissue was free from the presence of cancer.
“I didn’t realise I would know so soon that there was nothing there. I went to the doctor yesterday, I was hardly in the door and he told me it was good news. I couldn’t believe it,” she tells Donegal Woman.
She rushed to Facebook to share the magic words with her followers: “I know I’ll have many hurdles as having chemo and cancer can leave you with a lot of unseen scars, mentally and physically! But right now I couldn’t care less because I can say those magic words “cancer free”.”
Through My Right Tata, Orla has been vocal about the importance of self-checks, using the advice of ‘Check your tatas’ to remind women of all ages to be aware of the signs of breast cancer.
She is thankful now that she checked herself after an episode of The Only Way is Essex for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October 2016.
“I was lucky that the cancer didn’t go anywhere else. I had biopsies done in the lymph nodes and showed that it all was contained in that one tumour. I’m patting myself on the back for finding it so early when it was at a stage when it didn’t progress.”
Orla has always maintained a positive attitude about her recovery.
“When the biopsy came back clear, I think even at that stage six weeks ago, I thought I’m bound to get good news if it hasn’t spread,” she says.
The all-clear has put her whole experience into perspective and she looks back on it as a pivotal moment in her life.
“It was great, from losing your hair and being sick and those different things were all worth it to get to this stage.”
“I don’t know what I’m going to do now, you are trying to be the person you were before as well as another person. You change you so much it’s hard to remember what you were before.
“I wouldn’t have been very positive person, now I feel really positive about everything. Now I think – If I can do this I can do anything. Before, I always doubted myself and thought I wouldn’t be able to do things or go places but now I think – Why can’t I?”
“I suppose I was at the stage of my life where I was fed up. I was turning 30 and nothing was going the way I had planned it when I was 20.
“I think of breast cancer as a positive thing for me because it has made me who I am now and made me a happier and more positive person,” she says.
Although she was always optimistic about her cancer, Orla made a point to share the lows and the struggles she went through during her illness. She wrote openly about the effects of chemotherapy and her hair loss.
“I had been contemplating it for a few weeks. It had just started to become so itchy and sore to sleep on and as my brother said to me I was like a golden retriever going around the house! There was hair everywhere,” she wrote in February when she decided to shave her head.
“When I was first diagnosed people said it’s not as bad as people say and your hair doesn’t come out on your pillow. They were telling me to take control and shave it off.
“I didn’t want to at first, my hair did great until it got to the point that was itchy and sore and I decided I was ready for it.
“I wanted to tell people the truth and I wanted to let them know that it is bad, you will get a shock,” she says.
Orla admits she was initially full of regret after her mastectomy and was reluctant to recommend it because she was in such pain afterwards. Now, she is glad she did it and pleased with the reconstruction, where tissue was taken from her stomach and filled into her breast.
She is delighted that the difference is not noticeable beneath a bra or bikini, and she plans to get a nipple reconstruction in the future. She will be sharing further updates on her progress on her blog to help other women getting similar procedures.
“It’s nothing to me to share something like that now. It’s not even for me, it’s for other women who might be nervous about it” she says.
Orla’s blog has helped people on their own cancer journeys, inspired friends to check their breasts for the first time and helped people change their outlook on cancer.
“They see that if something like this does happen that is it not scary. My younger brother said to me yesterday ‘You’ve made it so I’m not afraid of cancer now’ and that really got me.
“I’m not afraid of it either. I know not everybody gets good news, but you have to just fight it and don’t be afraid, because if you are afraid you’re letting it win.
“My friends and family have always been there if I needed them. You wouldn’t know the amount of support and love you have until you see it from being sick. I’ve had strangers backing me from day one. People are amazing,” she says.
Orla is going to stay focused on recovering from surgery before considering the next step in her life. She had been working as a beautician before her diagnosis, but the cancer has inspired her to rethink her career path.
“I want to do something more with my life now. I think it’s time for a change, but to what, I don’t know.
“Who knows, maybe I’ll go back to beauty, but for now I’ll hang up the wax pots!”
Visit www.facebook.com/myrighttata to follow Orla’s blog.