Age at diagnosis: 26
Family history of breast cancer: no
Stage 3, triple negative
On the 12th of March 2013 during my morning shower I found a large and unusual lump in my breast. Little did I know how that moment in time would set in action a series of events that would forever change my life.
It was 8 days before my son’s first birthday that I discovered the lump and first consulted with a doctor about it. Inwardly I was beyond scared but being not long before my 27th birthday and being healthy and happy in my life I was trying to push away any negative thoughts. Upon examination my doctor assessed it was most likely a fibro adenoma and of no concern to my health, but he decided to refer me for an ultrasound just to be safe. Although the next few weeks now feel like a blur, at the time it was as though time was standing still. The ultrasound came back inconclusive so I had a fine needle biopsy conducted and this came back suspicious. I was referred for an urgent MRI and core biopsies and a short 3 days late on the 7th of April I heard the words “You have breast cancer.” I can’t even explain my reaction, it didn’t seem real, it didn’t seem possible and I didn’t know what to do. The next day I met my surgeon who scheduled my first surgery for 6 days later to insert a portacath, followed by meeting my Oncologist 3 days after that (which was also my 27th birthday) and having my first chemotherapy infusion the day after.
What followed my diagnosis is a time I can only describe as the most harrowing experience of my life. I endured 4 rounds of Cyclophosphamide and Epirubicin with Neulasta injections fortnightly, a full Bilateral Mastectomy with the removal of all lymph nodes in one armpit and a following 12 rounds of Paclitaxel all while being a mum to a one year old, working part time and trying to maintain my relationship with my fiancé without being too sick. Some of those days though, I can remember barely being able to open my eyes or drag myself out of bed due to the sickness and exhaustion as my body underwent such a grueling regime. I have also received Zoladex injections every 4 weeks for the past year rendering me in a chemical menopause and living a hot and flushy life well before I should. Chemotherapy is not something I would wish upon anybody and I became quite positive that I did not want to expose anyone to the hell I was enduring or how I was really feeling. It was much easier to be brave and act as though I felt ok and keep forging ahead.
Breast cancer has cost me a lot, it has cost my hair, my breasts, my relationship, my security, but most of all, it cost my sense of self and my femininity. I was once a bubbly and happy person with an active social life, now I live with the shadow of cancer over my head every single day. The visual reminders of the weight gain through steroids and fluid retention, seeing my scars and lack of breasts every time I undress and the mental reminders such as not being able to have more children and the constant fear of cancer returning.
I am now almost 2 years post diagnosis and I am about to embark on the journey to have my breasts reconstructed using expanders and exchanging to implants and I can only hope that reconstruction can give me some feeling of closure and a new kind of normal.
I am incredibly excited to be part of this project and I strive to make people aware that Breast Cancer is no longer an older person’s disease, it is not selective and at some point in life it will affect each and every single person is some way. If anything comes from my journey I wish people to understand the affect breast cancer has on younger women and to raise awareness of breast cancer in women under the age of 40.