Age at diagnosis: 36
My journey with breast cancer began on August 1st 2016.
I was 36 years old, wife and mother of 2, fit and healthy personal trainer 2 months out from completing a full marathon 42.2kms at Melbourne Marathon.
Originally I found a lump under my left armpit in 2015, I visited my GP and he sent me off to get an ultrasound done and that came back that I had fibroadenoma. My GP asked me to keep an eye on the lump and if it hadn’t disappeared that I would need to come back and see him in 6 months. I was not concerned at all and went about my busy life running around after my children, husband and my personal training/bootcamp business.
One night while relaxing, I decided to have a feel around and check my breasts – I must admit that I was not consistent at checking my breasts, I always thought breast cancer was something older women had to worry about. As I was feeling around, I felt a lump in my left breast, a small one but it was definitely a lump. I asked my husband Chris to check it for me and let me know if he felt a lump too and he said yes, there’s a lump and to go get it looked at. So I booked myself into see my GP, he sent me over to get a mammogram and ultrasound. I went back to see my GP and he advised me that all was ok, there was nothing to worry about. I told him that I was not happy and if he could please refer me to a specialist. I booked into see the specialist, at my appointment he booked me into get a biopsy, I didn’t make it to that appointment as a few days later I woke up with a sharp pain in the lump under my arm. So I made an appointment with the specialist again, he then booked me into surgery to remove the painful lump under my arm. August 1st I went in to my follow up appointment with the specialist, that’s where he broke the news that I had breast cancer. That rocked my world, I thought who gets breast cancer at 36, I am fit and healthy, I don’t smoke, and I hardly drink, I am at a healthy weight…. I’m doing everything I am supposed to do to live a healthy life. I was at this appointment on my own, my surgeon called my husband Chris and asked him to come down to the consulting suite. I remember breaking into a sweat and asking my surgeon if I could go outside for fresh air and wait for Chris. When I saw Chris he knew something was terribly wrong, we embraced and I could feel his heart thumping, I cried in his arms and told him that I have breast cancer.
The days following my diagnosis felt like I was in slow motion while the rest of the world was moving forward. At night I would wake up so many times from my sleep and kept wishing it was all a bad nightmare. It shook me! I didn’t know how to deal with it. I was trying to remain strong not only for me but my husband also. It was so difficult hiding my feelings, emotions, fears and worries away from my children and continuing to do all my motherly duties while I was a complete mess. My husband and I decided not to stress Mariah & Jacob out and tell them about my diagnosis until we knew all the details ourselves. In the following days I was booked in for a CT scan, MRI, Mammogram, ultrasound & biopsy. I then had a lumpectomy and axillary node clearance and was then diagnosed with Stage 2 Grade 2 Invasive Breast Carcinoma with High Grade DCIS with 4 out of 24 lymph nodes affected, I was Estrogen+ Progesterone – Her2-
At that stage when we had all the information Chris and I sat Mariah (10 years old) and Jacob (8 years old) down and told them the news. We reassured them that I was tough and I was going to get through it all. We told them everything we knew and said that we promise to tell them everything and not hide anything away from them. That was definitely difficult telling the kids and seeing how emotional they got.
Two weeks after surgery I met with my oncologist who explained what was going to happen next. The following week I went into hospital and had my port put in ready for chemotherapy to begin. On October 14th I had my first chemotherapy, I tried the cold cap in order to keep my hair but after my first session I could not follow through with it. It felt like I had a constant brain freeze and then after treatment I could not stay warm, I remember going to bed with my beanie on. By my second treatment I had started to lose my hair, eventually I lost all the hair on my head, my eyelashes, most of my eyebrows and all the hair on my body. I tried to not look at myself in the mirror because I just did not recognise the person staring back at me. I received 6 months of chemotherapy – 4 FEC, 11 x Taxol and finished chemotherapy February 28th 2017.
Radiation followed shortly after chemotherapy finished, I had 30 sessions. I had to use the holding of my breath method as the radiation was on my left breast and neck area. Holding my breath ensured that my heart moved a little to the right and it didn’t get any radiation. By the end of radiation I was feeling so fatigued but grateful that my skin held up and didn’t blister.
I then started on Exemestane (hormone blocker) and Zoladex injections to shut down my ovaries. Zoladex injections were every 28 days and were quite painful and I bruised after each injection. So I decided to have my ovaries removed (oophorectomy) being 98% Estrogen + and having my children already… it was a no brainer for me to have them removed. Hello Menopause!!!
Since treatment I have a new zest for life, I am a breast cancer survivor and I am going to live life to the fullest. Breast cancer has changed me but I believe it’s for the better, I no longer sweat the small stuff, I no longer take life for granted. I am grateful for my medical team, my friends and my family who got me through the biggest battle of my life.
Life is precious and every day is a blessing!