Erin

Age at diagnosis: 37
Family history of breast cancer: no
Stage 1, estrogen positive

 

My story….how it all happened

So initially I found a lump in my right breast after doing my first ever self-breast exam in the shower one day. This was on advice from my best friend Justine who told me that it didn’t matter how old I was and that I should perform regular checks (Thank god for Justine). I was a bit unsure whether it was anything to be worried about so I waited a week or so and then I decided to tell my sister Layla and she advised me to get it checked immediately (thank god for big sister always looking out for little sister).

I still thought I might be overreacting but I went and saw my local GP and he referred me to the amazing people at the Geelong Breast Clinic. This is when the anxiety started to creep in. A couple of weeks later I had my first ever mammogram and ultrasound. A very daunting experience but the people at the clinic were so supportive and kind. It wasn’t until they told me that they were going to do a biopsy that I knew something wasn’t right. I cried all the way home.

I went to the doctors alone 3 days later to get my results and had convinced myself that I was making a big deal over nothing….big mistake. I walked in there and he told me without hesitation that I had breast cancer and I didn’t hear another word after that. I immediately wanted to run out of there and be with my family and friends. This is pretty much what I did as soon as I could. I got in the car and drove from Geelong to Colac .

I first went to my best friend Tammy’s house because I knew she would be home and we hugged and cried together. She was amazing and very grounding and helped me to calm down so that I could come back down to earth and see the bigger picture. I wasn’t going to die and I had a lot of treatment options.

After there I went to see my sister. Telling her was the most challenging because one of her close friends was dying of cancer and was palliative and I didn’t want to impact what she was already going through. Unfortunately her beautiful friend died the next day. It was a very tough time for my sister. We are very close and she’s always been my protector and taken care of me.

I then spoke to my Mum and my brother and my niece and my Nana. I contacted my closest friends and then once I got a more in depth diagnoses from my surgeon I decided to be very public about it on social media and to share my story. Mainly as I was always scared of people with cancer and I never knew what to say or do. So I thought I would help other people with that and to be really open about my feelings and to invite questions and to be as candid as I possibly could. I also wanted to get the word out about how important early detection is and to perform regular self checks.

Through social media I found it quite cathartic to voice how I was feeling to the people I love. Sometimes it was funny, sometimes it was sad but it was a beautiful thing to be able to share the experience with so many people. Their messages of support were a beacon of light when I was going through my darkest moments.

Treatment

Initially I had a lumpectomy. This was a new experience for me as I had never had any type of surgery before. I’d barely been sick in my whole life. Just the usual stuff. So I had that and although it was quite painful I had no complications and I recovered quickly. I was worried about what my breast would look like but the surgeon did a dynamite job and you can barely tell that I had surgery.

After that I had 3 rounds of one type of chemo and then 9 rounds of another type.

The first type was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever experienced. After the first round I wanted to give up but my mum convinced me to keep going and I was so proud of myself that I got through each one. It was horrible and scary and I hated it. So I was elated when that finished. I had high anxiety before the next type started as I thought it was going to be just as bad. I even threw my back out from the stress of it all. Luckily the second type was much easier.

After that all finished I had a couple of weeks break and radiation started. I had 6 weeks of it. Initially it was quite easy but by the end of it, it was quite painful.

I also started hormone therapy during my other treatments. I have to have an injection every 28 days to put my ovaries to sleep and I also take a hormone blocker. This type of treatment was something I had no idea about and it was pretty daunting as I knew it was going to be a bit more of a long term treatment. It has affected my day to day in a big way as I am constantly tired and it affects my ability to work full time.

How I am now…

Well aside from being confronted by my own mortality…I have had 12 moths of reassessing what and when and how I do things. Physically I am not the same. The medication that I am on makes me prone to weight gain so I have had to increase my physical activity and to watch my eating. But the medication makes me tired all the time as well. I have constant hot flushes and mood swings and I can cry at the drop of a hat.

Other than the physical impact, emotionally I am still challenged by an amount of fear that the cancer could come back so I need to keep that in check as well.

I am also single and it can be challenging bringing it up when I meet new people. How it can affect new relationships is an interesting experience.