The beginning of the school holidays isn’t exactly the most relaxing of times, but with the help of every parent’s best friend (the trusted TV!) it becomes a little less stressful. That TV not only saved my sanity, it saved my life.
It was while watching TV with the children, that I saw an advertisement prompting women to self-check their breasts. I had sporadically checked my breasts in the past but between the kids, the house and work I had hardly been vigilant – I mean who has the time? That night as instructed I conducted a quick self-check and found a tiny (2.4cm to be exact) lump in my left breast. Having what I affectionally describe as “fried eggs” for breasts I never thought breast cancer would ever be an issue, no boobs, no worries right?! Wrong.
As we were about to leave for our much-anticipated family holiday, I decided to put off getting the lump checked for a couple of weeks (notebook: please don’t do this!)
Upon returning I went to my local G.P who didn’t seem too concerned and categorised the lump as complex cyst which had probably been caused by breast feeding. He seemed confident that at my age (38) it was nothing to worry about and mentioned he had seen this before.
Whilst initially relieved, I just had a feeling that something was amiss so I decided to take it upon myself to investigate further.
I did some research around breast clinics in my area (a small country community) and found a reputable breast clinic which managed to squeeze me in within the week.
After a plethora of tests including a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy, I was ushered in to see a specialist breast cancer Doctor who told me to prepare for the worst.
By the end of the day I was referred to a Surgeon who diagnosed me with Stage 2 Triple Negative Breast Cancer. That was on a Friday, so I promptly went home and cried for two days straight.
By Monday I was in treatment and one week later I had a mastectomy, directly followed by chemotherapy which I finally finished up in May this year.
Thankfully my Surgeon was incredible and gave me the most important piece of advice – that your mind is the biggest player you have so adopt a positive attitude – something which I still use every day.
Because of my age, I had genetic testing done and it was determined that I was BRAC1 positive, a gene trait which was passed down from my Father’s side.
Because of this, I am having the final piece of the puzzle – a hysterectomy completed on Monday. Knowing that I have proactively chosen every possible method to reduce my risk of cancer brings some hope and relief.
My biggest piece of advice and my biggest lesson through this journey is to always, always, always trust your instincts – pressure your Doctor, don’t take no for an answer and make sure you get the medical attention you need and deserve. I tell my girlfriends that it doesn’t matter the size of your breasts, your age, your family history even your health, breast cancer will find you if you don’t find it.
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