Age at diagnosis: 39
I was 32 when I found out I had breast cancer. I was in the shower and felt a lump on my left breast and thought “that wasn’t there before.” My mother had breast cancer so I was highly aware of lumps and bumps on my breasts. Over the years I had been several times to the GP to get lumps checked out so I wasn’t overly concerned at this stage. So, without telling anyone I made an appointment with my GP to get it checked out.
My GP straight away sent me for an ultrasound and mammogram. It wasn’t until the I wasn’t until I was sitting in the waiting room after my ultrasound and mammogram and the technician came out with my films and told me “your GP is expecting you” that I started to really worry something was wrong. After going back to my GP, I was booked in to see a specialist that afternoon. It was at this stage I called my partner and told him everything. He immediately came home to take me to my appointment.
Upon seeing the specialist that afternoon, she looked at my scans and said she was pretty sure it was cancer and booked me in for a biopsy the next day. It was less than three days from the time I first saw the specialist, had a biopsy and was back to get the results. Even though I knew what the results were going to be and had decided on what my choice was regarding surgery, it still hit me hard when it was confirmed that I had breast cancer. I remember sitting in my doctor’s office and I was numb. All I could think was not yet! Not so soon! My mother had breast cancer at 45 and I always just thought, that’s when it will get me. not at 32. I was a wreck. If my partner was not there to ask questions and talk to my doctor, I don’t think I would have remembered anything.
The day I was diagnosed my life changed forever and three days later I was checked in to hospital for my double mastectomy and expanders put in. Once I had recover from surgery, six months of chemo started. This meant six months of feeling lethargic, sick, bloated and generally unwell. I remember crying twice during chemo. Once on the first day I went as I was feeling scared and miserable. Still couldn’t quite believe this was happening. The second time was on my last day of chemo and it was a mix of happiness because it was over, I made it. But I also had an overwhelming sadness and fear, thinking what now? What ‘s next? Because my cancer was triple negative, the end of chemo for me was the end of treatment. I was done and expected to return to the real world. I didn’t know how I was going to do that.
While you are in the middle of treatment it feels like there is no end and no way out and it is easy to fall into a slump. However, with the support of my partner and family and a lot of soul searching, I found a new strength in myself. After watching my mother go through breast cancer and beat it, I know I could. There was a lot of self-doubt and down times, but with support I have come out the other end a better, stronger and more confident person.
During my treatment and even now, I found being a part of a support network the most helpful for me. Just being able to have a chat, a cry, even a laugh with others who are going through treatment and can understand what each day is like, reassured me that what I was going through and feeling wasn’t unique, that I wasn’t alone in my struggles.
I hope that there is a cure somewhere in the future. But my personal hope, as a breast cancer survivor and BCRA1 carrier for is to just live a happy and long life.