Age at diagnosis: 36
Family history of breast cancer: no
Stage 1, estrogen positive
My name is Ana, I am a wife and mother of 2 beautiful young kids. 1 ½ years ago I noticed a lump on my right breast while in the shower, I didn’t think much of it, but after a few months I went and got it checked by my GP, just in case! She wasn’t too worried but said I should get an ultrasound and a biopsy to be sure. I went to the ultrasound and I remember the lady was really chirpy, she explained that if it was a cyst then it would “burst” when they biopsied it, I remember looking at her and seeing her expression change, I said “it didn’t burst???” she just shook her head at me. I had to wait 2 more days for the results, but I had a gut feeling that it wasn’t good. My appointment was at 4 on Friday the 21st of August 2015, my husband came with me, as soon as we walked into the doctor’s room and sat down, The doctor said “you have cancer, what hospital would you like to go to?” it was like she was asking what hotel we wanted to stay at. As soon as she said it the tears started to trickle down my face, I felt like I couldn’t breath. My whole world just seemed to stop.
We managed to book into a specialist in the city for the following Monday. We drove the 7hours to Adelaide on the Sunday with the kids not saying much and with the kids not knowing why we were going. Monday was a bit of a blur. I meet my specialist and my breast care nurse; I had more ultrasounds and biopsy, a mammogram, MRI, and was looking at maybe a lumpectomy, but still had more tests to confirm this. Tuesday was more test’s bone scans, and a chest x-ray. I meet with my specialist and he confirmed that I would need a Right side Mastectomy and also Lymph nodes removed. Wednesday morning I went for a run to clear my head, I have always been really fit and active and played sport my whole life, while I was running I kept holding my breast and thinking how uncomfortable it would be to run with just the 1 breast, and also thinking that I’d have to have surgery again later to either have the other removed or a reconstruction, or always be uneven. When I got back from my run I rang my specialist and asked to have a double mastectomy.
Thursday the 27th of August only 6 days after being diagnosed I was having a double mastectomy. I remember after the surgery my breast care nurse coming in and asking me how I was, my chest wasn’t too bad, but my right arm was so sore and felt really heavy, I could hardly move it, she explained it was due to having a large number of lymph nodes removed. I was in hospital for 5 days. I was allowed to go home for 3 weeks to recover before staring my chemotherapy. 24th of October I had my first of 4 rounds of chemotherapy; I had to fly to Adelaide to have the treatment. I had chosen to use the cold cap to try to save my hair, this was the worst of it, the cap was -36 and was really heavy, they would change it every 30mins, I had it on my head for 6 hours during chemo. I ended up in hospital for 4 days after my first round of chemo, my temp had gone up and white cell count was really low, my veins were getting a hammering from needles so the nurses put an IV in my ankle, only to have this get infected and another 2 nights in hospital.
My second round of chemo I had a reaction the chemo drugs as soon as they started the IV, I remember seeing stars and not being able to breathe, there were alarms going off and doctors and nurses everywhere rushing, they gave me IV adrenaline and IV antihistamine. Once my heart rate came back down they started the chemo again. The last 2 rounds of chemo weren’t too bad, the nurses would give me IV antihistamine before my chemo to prevent another reaction, this made me so drowsy and made the cold cap a bit more bearable.
The last few weeks of chemo I had a few days where I was really sore and my body was achy, but most days I would get up put the kids on the bus and go for a run or at least a little walk if I felt shit. I know that this helped get me through mentally, just starting my day in the fresh air made me feel better. Before the kids got home from school id have a quick nap in the arvo to help. I lost about 60% of my hair, this was really hard, waking up to see hair all over my pillow and then watching it go down the sink in the shower. This is when you start to look sick. Its funny how something that’s meant to make you better can make you feel and looks and look so sick.
It wasn’t till a few weeks after my last round of chemo that I realized how bad I did feel through out the treatment, I think I was just trying to convince myself it wasn’t that bad while I was gong through it.
I chose not to have radiotherapy and am now on Tamoxifine tablets for the next 10yrs, There are some side effects, l’m a bit more moody, I’m less tolerant, I can feel myself getting frustrated much easier than I use to but I know that its better than the alternative. I still think that I’m so lucky, I get to wake up and see my 2 beautiful children and husband every morning and hopefully get to see them grow old.