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Pam’s Story

06 Mar 2019 by Krystal Barter

My name is Pam and this is my story.

It was 1988 and as I lay in bed one night I felt an itch on my right breast which, upon later investigation, turned out to be a hard lump. I was 36 at the time and I knew straight away that I had to have it checked out.

My doctors performed a fine needle biopsy and the results came back as negative. I saw another doctor who suggested a mammogram and again, the results showed nothing. After an ultrasound which didn’t show much, it was suggested that I remove the lump.

They removed the lump in surgery and tested it – the results came back positive. I went back into surgery to have more removed and tested. The results showed that I had cancer and so I began treatment straight away. I went through 6 months of chemotherapy and after that 3 months of radiotherapy. In 1989, I had my lymph nodes removed and a lumpectomy. I stayed in New Zealand until 1999, after which I moved to Australia.

In 1999, my mother, who was 77 at the time, discovered that she had breast cancer and had a single mastectomy. My cousin had been diagnosed with breast cancer years before me but despite these discoveries, genetic testing hadn’t crossed my mind. It was when my daughter wanted to know if she carried the BRCA gene, as she had two young girls, that I decided to begin the testing process. It took 6 months for the results to come back but when they did I discovered that I carried the BRCA 2 gene mutation.

Thankfully, my daughter tested negative for the gene. Afterwards, my son Jamie, who has a daughter and son himself, was tested too. Males can carry the BRCA gene mutation and get breast cancer which is a fact that many people don’t realise. I will forever be grateful that my beautiful daughter, Kristel, suggested I take the BRCA test to avoid secondary cancer.

I continued to have regular mammograms and preventative screening but after a while I decided that I wanted to go down the preventative surgery route. I had my ovaries removed first at the beginning of 2013 and in November 2013, I had a double mastectomy.

I chose not to have reconstruction.

I went to see a plastic surgeon and I was told my options but it didn’t feel right for me. I had seen a friend who had reconstruction and I knew that I wouldn’t be choosing that path. Depending on what I’m wearing I will use breast prosthesis but being flat doesn’t bother me at all.

I am so grateful to have had the chance to take charge of my risk and my families. Discovering that I carried the BRCA Gene meant that my entire family had the opportunity to take their future into their own hands and be aware of their health risks. I love my body and my decision to forego reconstruction.

I feel empowered to make sure that other women know that this is an option and they are supported no matter what they choose to do with their bodies.

Pink Hope has provided me with access to so many amazing women who share their stories to inspire others and I am honoured to be here today doing just that. My journey started in 1988 with a lump, a mammogram, an ultrasound, and a lumpectomy – I could never have imagined the ups and downs it all brought me but one thing I will always be thankful for is that I am still here today, living my life to the fullest and having some of my greatest adventures yet.

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