Hi my name is Carin. This is my Pink Hope Story.
November 2014 I thought I had all my ducks in a row. Sure I was going through a divorce after the breakdown of my marriage. I was struggling to find a part time Practical Legal Training placement so I could finally be sworn in as a NSW Solicitor after years of study (peppered with some amazing milestones; giving birth to my amazing daughter Sahara in 2007, being crowned Mrs World Australia in 2009 and competing on the world stage in Vietnam, then again as Mrs Australia International 2010 in Chicago) but I was getting back on track, had my own little place, a Goldfish named ‘Konichiwa’ I’d managed not to kill for a full month and a new relationship with a wonderful man who adores both my daughter and I.
Then that mid- November morning in the shower, I felt a bump. Not in my breast. Under my arm. Deep in my armpit. As it flicked off my finger I felt an instant chill. I knew where my lymph nodes were and generally what they were for. I knew they “went up” when you got the flu, but not like this. Like a small hard marble. I did what any rational 36 year old female would do and I got straight on my phone to Dr Google. He kept reverting back to breast cancer. Now, I’m a girl who has spent a LOT of time applying sunscreen (due to a high incidence of skin cancer in my family) and self-tanning lotions (for the same reason) so its fair to say I’ve felt my boobs a LOT. But on this day, I sat down, closed my eyes and began pressing around my breasts from the outside inwards, towards my ribs…… and there it was. A stiff, hard, non-specifically shaped lump at 3 o’clock on my left breast. I ran to the bathroom to be sick. I knew what it was. Then I got on the phone to my real doctor Julie, who after examination sent me off for a mammogram and ultrasound. Mammogram showed nothing. Ultrasound showed a ‘suspicious mass’.
My biopsy results came back to me at break-neck speed. I had breast cancer. Grade 3 ductal carcinoma. It had also spread (obviously) to my lymphs under my left arm. I messaged the first person who came to mind. My friend Krystal Barter. She was on the phone back to me in an instant. The voice of calm and reason. Reassurance. Thank God for her in that very moment. THEN I called my Mum. Well, I couldn’t call Mum without all the ‘calm, level-headed’ information first could I? On 15 Dec 2014 I had a lumpectomy and a full left axilla clearance. You know what sneezing feels like after that surgery? Like you’ve swallowed a live grenade. I walked out of Prince of Wales Hospital in the very same grey suede platform boots I walked in wearing.
I sat my little girl down and told her I had breast cancer removed and that the doctors were giving me special medicine called chemo now, and chemo is like teeny tiny soldiers they inject into my veins, and they march through my body killing off any left over cancers cells that might be floating around inside me. She thought chemo sounded like a pretty good idea.
I began chemo on 11 February under the watchful eye of my amazing Oncologist Professor Michael Friedlander. I was getting the “Trifecta”. Chemo: A/C every 3 weeks for 12 weeks then Taxol weekly for 12 weeks, Radiotherapy; daily for 7 weeks and finally (I hope) Hormone Treatment; tamoxifen for 5 years. I strutted into the oncology outpatient clinic in heels with my best mate Maddy and my boyfriend Kris. I was determined to face this the way I faced everything. In killer heels. I walked out of chemo in those heels too…. then spent the next 3 days shoeless with a black t-shirt over my head to help soften the chronic migraines. I feel like my body might be getting used to the pain of chemo. But I don’t think my mind gets used to seeing the bright red fluid being pushed into my vein. I was once the victim of a robbery by a man who threatened me with a hypodermic syringe. I’ll probably never get used to needles.
My hair began to really fall out on 4th March 2015, the day of my second chemo session, so I had it shaved off that day. I always thought that the “big shave” would be a tearful exercise sitting on the floor of my bathroom crying, but instead it was fun and liberating. It made me feel stronger somehow. So we took a bunch of fun “new bald me” pics down at Bradbury Hair in Bondi Beach and made a real evening of it. I’m a former beauty queen. Lets not beat around the bush. My appearance is important to me. This whole head shaving thing could have gone COMPLETELY the other way. I’m so glad it didn’t. Thank you Kristy Bradbury.
I’ve documented my journey so far with video diaries. A few people wondered what I did that for. Well, I’ll be damned if I’m going to go through all of this without changing SOMETHING. Even if its reaching out to just one person to let them know there are preventative options. Genetic testing, like what I’m going through now at the Prince of Wales Hereditary Cancer Clinic. What I hadn’t expected was the incredible outpouring of support that I’ve received from social media, particularly Pink Hope. Cancer seemed so far away to me for a good part of my life. Then cancer took my Grandpa. Then it began creeping up and touching people around me, closer and closer. When it touched my breast I decided I was going to kick its butt. I was scared. I was angry. But thanks to Pink Hope, I’ve never felt alone. I feel more special than ever. I thank Krystal for that. She calls HERSELF ‘The Lucky One’. But we are the lucky ones. She’s brought us together and we have each other.
Cancer sucks. But it has made me stronger. It has made me look at life differently. Appreciate everything I have. Hug my daughter more, tighter, longer, every chance I get although it might drive her nuts. Forgive. Let go of the drama. Think about others. Smile at randoms in the street. Get on with life and get on with it GOOD.