My name is Rosa and this is my story.
In February 1990, my then 56 year old mother found a lump in her breast. This was followed by doctor appointments, hospital appointments, a breast cancer diagnosis and the beginning of the roller coaster ride of my life. In August 1991, she lost that battle.
Six years later my then 46 year old cousin’s niece found a lump in her breast. She had treatment and today is still with us and healthy. Ten years ago my 29 year old cousin, again my mother’s niece, found a lump in her breast. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent chemotherapy and a double mastectomy. She is currently in good health.
Four years ago my 39 year old cousin and 49 year old cousin (my mother’s nieces) and my aunt (my mother’s sister) were all diagnosed with breast cancer ….. making six family members.
I have a twin sister and we were vigilant about our checks with yearly mammograms, ultrasounds and MRIs – we did everything all in the name of prevention. Around four years ago my ultrasound showed blocked milk ducts so my GP suggested I go under the care of a breast surgeon.
In February 2015, I had my routine mammogram and on the day there was no indication that anything was wrong. I followed this screening with an appointment in March, with my breast surgeon. He informed me that the mammogram showed a radical scar and that this required an ultrasound guided biopsy which I underwent but unfortunately they couldn’t find the radical scar. My breast surgeon suggested that it be removed in hospital so in April I had a hook wire procedure done at the breast clinic followed by surgery. During these procedures calcifications spots were discovered. A biopsy on the calcification spots showed I had DCIS (Ductal carcinoma in situ) which I had never heard of before.
A second surgery took place in May and the pathology report came back showing that in fact the specimen contained a 5mm tumour and it was breast cancer.
A third surgery in early June was required as I did not have a clear margin.
NOW what to do!! I had been advised of the different procedures or the option of taking tamoxifin and continuing with my screening (mammograms, MRIs etc.) I went for a second opinion which took me to Melbourne where I pretty much ticked all their boxes for having my breasts removed. Based on my family history I had already made up my mind a long time ago that if anything was found I would not hesitate in having my breasts removed.
On August 17, at the Royal Melbourne Hospital I did just that and the relief was instant. The fear left me, after my eight hour double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery, I was on top of the world. My recovery was great until day 5, when a blocked drainage bottle caused me grief. I left the hospital on August 22, only to return on August 24, with a high temperature. I had pneumonia. I spent five days in hospital and on day five I had a bleed in my right breast but I still went home. On the following Monday I was back for my checkup and this didn’t go well as over the weekend the area that had bleed had caused a black area and skin to die. I returned to the hospital on the Wednesday for surgery to remove the dead skin and unfortunately suffered an infection and was in hospital for another nine days. When I was finally released I had four weeks of district nursing. Finally at the end of October I returned to work and my family life.
So many positives have come from my experience and I would not hesitate in doing it all again. Now in March 2016, I will have my nipple reconstruction surgery and then the tattoos which will give me closure. I am forever grateful for the skills of the doctors and nurses that have made this journey with me and to all my family and friends that have helped me along the way.