My name is Samantha and this is my story.
Breast cancer has always been a part of my life. My mum was just four years old when my grandmother died from breast cancer. When I was growing up Mum would have her yearly mammograms – every year from when she turned 30. It was a normal part of life. When I was in Year 12 Mum had to have a lump removed – I remember being very scared but thankfully everything was fine. And then in December 2008 Mum went for her yearly check-up and was told she had to go back for her results. The day of Mum’s appointment was the first day of my first job out of university. I remember being very nervous on the drive home from work. Mum said she had DCIS – I didn’t really know what it was but I just burst into tears. Mum was amazing – it wasn’t life threatening she said, they had caught it very early, she was booked in for surgery in January and she wouldn’t need chemo or radiotherapy.
We got through Christmas and then my brother headed off overseas a week before Mum’s surgery. He was going for 12 months. Mum had a mastectomy in January and everything went well. But little did I know this was the first of four major surgeries that Mum would undergo that year. Mum decided to go ahead and have her other breast removed as a preventative measure. She then had a full reconstruction and finally had to have a hysterectomy due to other health problems.
2009 was a crazy year with lots of time spent visiting mum in hospital. At the time I felt very stressed and scared. I tried to be strong for Mum and my brother who was overseas, whilst also having a very stressful full time job. There were lots of tears and moody outbursts! Luckily I have a fantastic and supportive boyfriend who is always there for me (who has now put up with me for seven years!) and my Aunty came to visit from Canberra each time Mum was in hospital. But not having my brother around was really hard. I felt that nobody else really understood what Mum was going through. 2009 was a really tough year for me. I don’t think many of my friends or colleagues really understood what was happening. Your mum has cancer but she doesn’t need chemo or radiotherapy so she must be fine? What’s all the fuss about?
After going through everything with Mum it really made me think about my own body and what might happen to me. Should I have a preventative double mastectomy? Do I need to have one? What is my risk of developing breast cancer?
We went to see a genetic counsellor and found out we are not eligible for the BRCA gene screening (unless we pay privately) as it is not clear if the DCIS my mum had is linked to the breast cancer my grandmother had. My grandmother was an only child and we do not know enough about the rest of our family history.
So I continue to live with a little fear every day – I do my self, breast checks and will start having mammograms when I turn 30. I haven’t decided yet whether I will have a mastectomy – I might wait until I have kids – but who knows? All I can do is be vigilant, know my body and keep supporting organisations such as Pink Hope and NBCF to hope that one day we will find a cure.
Pink Hope is such a fantastic resource – it is very comforting to know there are others going through the same thing.
Since going through Mum’s journey it has definitely made me stronger and I am now in a position to support my friends as their Mums and Grandmothers go through the same thing. It is such a horrible disease but it has strengthened many friendships and I have made some amazing friends through our link with breast cancer.
I am so proud of my Mum, she is a Pink Hope Outreach Ambassador and the most inspiring and courageous woman I know. She has also had to deal with a fractured and shattered shoulder in the past 12 months – and I can gladly say my brother was here to help this time!