My breast cancer diagnosis came out of the blue, it was totally unexpected. Being sick was not part of my life plan. However, The Universe had an alternate agenda for me and on reflection, this substitute storyline has been the ‘worst’ and the ‘best’ thing that has happened to me.
Up until the diagnosis, I had been healthy and led an active life. Life was pretty good. I enjoyed my work, I had a great social life with my family and network of friends, I loved going to the gym and walking our gorgeous dog, Jazz. I had no serious health issues, goodness the only medication I took was vitamin supplements!
In November 2020, I had my regular Breast Screen courtesy of the NSW Governent which reported ‘no breast cancer could be seen on your mammogram’. Good news, no worries, carry on with life.
Then in January 2022, 14 months later, I felt a small indistinct lump in my left armpit. Thinking it was a bit odd but probably nothing to worry about, I visited my local GP who referred me for a mammogram and breast ultrasound. After these tests, I was asked to wait while the attending doctor reviewed the scans. I wondered if this was routine and normal or something more sinister. I was not left pondering long as the doctor soon entered the room. Oh boy, now I realised things had escalated and gotten a whole lot more serious. The doctor advised there were 2 suspicious masses in my left breast which required a biopsy. I wasted no time to undergo the biopsy which confirmed I had Grade 2 invasive ductal breast cancer.
From this point on, the chain of events unfolded quickly and surreally. It was like watching someone else’s movie, I must have been in a dream, this happens to other people, not me. I was in denial and avoidance.
My GP referred me to a breast surgeon who, after a confirmatory PET scan, advised chemotherapy to shrink the lumps before surgery. The breast surgeon referred me to Dr Patti Bastick who put me on a 20-week Chemotherapy program at Southside Cancer Care Centre. In less than 6 weeks, I went from detection, diagnosis to treatment.
So, I mentioned up front, there was a ‘worst’ part to the story, well that clearly was the chemo program. The chemo journey was a huge mountain to climb, the trek was long and hard. There are no mincing words, it was brutal. But by taking each day one by one, each step one by one, I got through it. The chemotherapy successfully shrunk the lumps and preceded a positive surgical outcome.
The ‘best’ bit of the story is connecting with the amazing people at the Southside Cancer Care Centre. I received the best professional care from the doctors and nurses who balanced their expertise with kindness and compassion. The receptionists made the process effortless and cheered me to the finish line with their strength and positivity. I will be forever grateful to this team who truly are the best of humanity. Connecting with this unique group of individuals turned this time in my life which was sad and ugly into something joyful and beautiful.
Your treatment type and services you used?
- Neoadjuvant (treatment before surgery) chemotherapy
- 4x fortnightly AC
- 12x weekly Taxol
What does this service mean to you?
Beyond the obvious lifesaving, this service has meant a great deal to my holistic wellbeing. I am grateful to the team at SCCC for their healing hands to take care of me professionally, for their mental strength to provide support and encouragement, for their generous, kind and compassionate hearts to care for my whole wellbeing, and for their sense of humour to lighten the darker moments.
Something to share with other cancer patients?
I have 3 things I would like to share:
- Physical activity: I thoroughly recommend you try to walk every day. I know there will be days you don’t feel like it, but just try, just put one foot after the other. It doesn’t have to be very far or fast. It will make you feel better, physically, emotionally and mentally.
- Keep your circle positive: Surround yourself with supportive, positive family and friends. Share your story and connect with others through this profoundly existential human experience. I drew strength and inspiration from the kindness and compassion of those around me. I couldn’t have done this on my own.
- Keep your head positive: This sounds trite and cliché, but a positive mindset is the key to getting through this rotten phase in your life. The doctors and nurses will manage your physical health, the drugs, your treatment; your job is to keep your head in the right space. Remember this is just an episode in your life, and like all episodes, it will pass. With patience, perseverance, and positivity you will get through it.
What do you love most or like spending your time on?
Spending time socialising with family and friends, being active walking or going to the gym, reading, going to movies and musicals, listening to podcasts, cooking, scoring baseball, traveling.