My name is Tina and this is my story.
Getting told at any age that “you have Cancer,” are not the words anyone really ever wants to hear but particularly if you are just 34 years old, with three youngish children. My daughter wasn’t quite 10 at the time, and her brothers were only eight and seven.
Talk about getting your world turned upside down! Suddenly my days were consumed with Drs appointments, hospitals and all manner of medical things that were suddenly to become my so called “normal”. This was way back in 1999, but I still remember like it was only yesterday.
Surgery revealed a Stage 3, Grade 3, triple negative tumour with under arm nodes involved, so a full auxillary clearance was needed. This also meant that both chemotherapy and radiation treatments would be necessary to rid my body of this invasive cancer. I had AC chemotherapy for six rounds, with a three week break between each round, followed by 40 sessions of radiation therapy, that was finished with five booster sessions. I thought that after almost a year of treatments I’d be well and truly over this episode of breast cancer.
How wrong can one be?? I was soon to find out, as only six months after finishing that treatment, a new breast cancer was found in my opposite breast, to the amazement of the Drs and myself alike! I was beyond words that it had returned again so soon, let alone return at all! How could this be happening to me again I thought over and over?? Thankfully we got the cancer early, when it was still quite small and before it had the chance to spread.
Surely that would be it I thought. Two cancers within two years was more than enough for anyone to deal with! The next few years passed without any further issues, and I keenly began to look forward to my five year post treatment mark and started to plan how I was going to be celebrating the occasion with a get together with family and friends.
Ha!! Little did I know! Just three weeks shy of my five year mark, I was recalled following a check up. The dreaded “C” had once again returned to make my life hell! A biopsy revealed it was another nasty one, again a Grade 3, Stage 3 triple negative, with the nodes involved. This bugger was well over a centimetre in size which shocked the Drs and I as it was just under six months since my previous check and scans.
Once again I faced surgery to remove the lump with a full auxillary clearance underarm on the opposite side to last time, followed this time with six courses of 5FEC and Taxol chemotherapy.
With this being my third aggressive cancer within five years of my initial diagnosis it was agreed to test to see if I was a carrier of one of the BRCA gene mutations. Whilst waiting for the test results to come back from America, I had convinced my surgeon to perform a double mastectomy, as I strongly felt it was my best hope of laying this beast to rest, that was continuing to haunt me! I had a double mastectomy in December 2005, which I declared to be “My Freedom Day!” Thankfully I did have that surgery as the genetic testing showed I am indeed a carrier of the BRCA1 gene mutation.
In 2014,I was advised I was at a higher risk of ovarian cancer, so I’ve also had my fallopian tubes and ovaries removed.
I have not had any breast reconstruction surgery to date. That is not an option available to me at present, as the radiation treatments have caused too much damage to my skin. It doesn’t bother me though being flat chested. After being a rather well endowed lady before my cancer journey, the joy of never needing to have to wear a bra everyday is joyous, and is such a free feeling, however I do have some prosthesis to wear should an outfit or occasion dictate it to be a better option.
I consider myself one of the lucky cancer survivors. Having beaten this beastly disease three times, with probably the worst type of breast cancer that one could have, I feel lucky and blessed to see my three kids grow up into gorgeous adults, who have happily gone onto living their own lives now, making their ways into the world. Seeing grandchildren would increase my feelings of luck and blessing.
My biggest hope to achieve in my life time is to be here long enough to see the time come when a cure for cancer is found, especially one for breast cancer, so others don’t have to go through what I have been through, or worse, not see their own dreams and desires fulfilled.
That day can’t come soon enough I feel for us all.
Update May 2016
I am pleased to add here that following a check up in May 2016, I have been declared to be cancer free – 11 years after my last diagnosis in 2005. It’s been a long 16 years to deal with this beastly disease and I’m pleased to see it go!!
My Mum had breast cancer diagnosed when she was just 30. Although she has since had other cancers they believe to be related to her initial breast cancer, she has opted not to be tested, but is still here with us today some 40+ years after her diagnosis. My Mum is one tough lady and is my idol. The specialists don’t believe our cancers to be related, and my younger sister and now my daughter are regularly checked and monitored and thankfully remain free of this dreaded disease. My Mum and I hope it remains this way for them too.