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Shea’s Story

03 Dec 2019 by Krystal Barter
Shea’s Story

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February last year at the age of 42.

Six months earlier I had a lump in the other breast, had the biopsy and it turned out to be benign. I got the all clear. So when I had a lump on the other side only six months later, I wasn’t worried at all. It looked like another cyst.

I got a huge shock when the GP told me the results.

He said that I had triple negative breast cancer, Stage 2A. It was invasive but thankfully hadn’t got into any of my lymph nodes.

Shea's Story

Only after having chemo was I recommended to have genetic testing. I found out that I carry the BRCA1 gene, from my father. I had no idea then that the gene could even be passed on from my dad. It was at this time, too, that I found out about Pink Hope – the genetic counsellor recommended that I get in touch with them and it was so helpful for me.

Find out your risk here using our Know Your Risk tool. 

I took my mum, who also had breast cancer in her 40’s, with me to my first She Shares event – just a week before I was booked in for my double mastectomy. Hearing their stories of other women’s reconstructions and treatments gave me so much insight and strength to go on.

It had such an impact… just realising there were people out there going through the same thing. Even just reading their stories really helped.

I had my mastectomy and reconstruction four weeks after finishing chemo, which the doctors thought would be enough time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Nothing was healing for me.

Doctors tried to re-stitch and re-do everything, but after my seventh surgery, they told me they had to remove both implants. I had them removed and then I had a total hysterectomy. Because of the gene, my age and the risk after going through breast cancer, I decided that just had to go too. I wanted to give myself the best chance I could.

And this all happened within a ten month period!

I’m feeling well now and back at work and I’ve decided that I’ll worry about fixing the boobs down the track.

Fortunately, I had my Mum and Dad nearby. I also have two amazing teenagers and an incredible partner who came to my appointments with me and stood by my side. My friends really rallied around me too. They’d pick me up, take me for lunch. I don’t know how I would have done it without that! From getting to medical appointments when they’re far away to dropping everything and rushing to have a surgery… having them there meant the world.

I’m 12 months clear now but they’ll keep monitoring me until the five-year mark. Having the chemo, mastectomy and hysterectomy gave me the best chance for the future – I’d have to be so unlucky for anything to happen! Sometimes in the back of my mind I think, “what if?” But I’ve decided that you just can’t live like that.

And…my hair has grown back! I’m so thrilled about it. I had really long curly hair and lost it all with the chemo. It was devastating for me at the time. It seems like a small thing now, but it really impacted how I felt about myself. It’s been a huge journey.

What does the future hold for you now?

Lots of time with good friends and my family. I have some holidays coming up!

When I get back, I have check-ups – and I’ve actually booked in to see the plastic surgeon. So I might even get brave enough to ask, “what are my options?”

If you feel inspired by Shea’s Story please help us continue to provide all Australians with life-saving information on their breast and ovarian cancer health risk by donating or fundraising now. 

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