Conquering cancer and reclaiming my veterinary career

Margot Hunter

Since joining VetPartners, I’ve seen the exceptional support given to practice teams. Whether it is mental health or other issues, everyone needs help at some point in their life.

Some people suffer in silence because they don’t want a personal health battle to become public knowledge.

I read a few months ago of a vet within VetPartners who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, but was determined to carry on with her career. This brought memories flooding back.

Ten years ago, I was getting ready for a night out when I
felt a small, firm nodule in my left armpit. Maybe not everyone would think breast cancer,
but I did.

I visited my GP and was immediately referred to the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh. Within a fortnight, I had scans, x-rays and biopsies, and the results confirmed I had breast cancer, with spread to lymph nodes in my axilla.

The nurses and surgeon were amazing: they discussed everything that could happen and what I would like to have happen. I threw caution to the wind, asking for radical surgery, followed by six months of chemotherapy and a month of radiotherapy.

I agreed to have blood tests for research projects, which might help others. I had a mastectomy on my son’s seventh birthday and my daughter hadn’t yet started school. Explaining breast cancer to young children is so difficult. I recovered from surgery, but often felt mentally drained and needing support.

I started chemotherapy, sitting for a day in hospital every three weeks, while drugs were pumped into my veins, in a ward where so many others were undergoing similar treatment.

My hair fell out, but unlike some, this did not have a great effect on me. I had an acute anaphylactic reaction to one of the drugs and had to be revived, but I got through the chemotherapy. I was told I could not be near animals, so my veterinary career went on hold. I did whatever I could in the admin department, whenever I felt able, before undergoing reconstructive surgery.

This year, I had my 10-year check-up and have been signed off from hospital. I am officially cancer-free. I shook my surgeon’s hand and thanked him so much.

Breast cancer affects one in eight women and many men, too. I am sure many VetPartners colleagues are – or have been – affected by breast cancer. I am happy to talk if anyone needs support.

  • This article first appeared in Veterinary Times, 9 September issue (VT49.36).

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