Breast Cancer – Inspiring stories – Part 1

1 Shares
1
0
0

The following people have shared their personal breast cancer stories with us – each one is vastly different, and each one shows that breast cancer does not discriminate; it can affect any one of us. These people are courageous and incredibly inspiring, and we are honoured to have the privilege of sharing these stories with you.

Faye and Michelle, mother and daughter

Faye and Michelle, mother and daughter

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey with breast cancer or how you’ve supported someone who has been affected by it?
My mum had a breast reduction in 2014. Everything went well, she was recovering and starting her next chapter of life with her dream boobs! Her surgeon called her to go in for what she thought was her post op check up… but the tissue that was routinely sent away for testing came back as positive for stage 4 breast cancer. This has a poor prognosis. We were all devastated.

We had to wait about a week for the operation to remove the affected breast and spent a week thinking this was the beginning of the end. Mum had just got her dream boobs and was then losing them, along with a very uncertain future. It was awful.

She had the mastectomy and fortunately the cancer was isolated in her milk ducts by her nipples, testing showed the cancer didn’t travel to her lymph nodes and post the 6 hour surgery she was deemed cancer free. And incredible turn of events, we felt like we had won the jackpot.

What was something you really didn’t expect?
How calm and together mum remained through out the entire ordeal. She handled herself with absolute poise and grace and she will be forever my hero. She was trying to hold everyone together when she must have been absolutely terrified herself.

Did the experience change you? If so, how?
For sure, it made me slow down and appreciate just being with family, it sounds so cliché but your entire life really can change in an instant. We got a second chance with our scenario for which I’ll be forever grateful.

What’s a piece of advice you’d give to someone else in the same position as you were?
Stay United. Communicate. Let people help you and support you if they offer. It lightens the load.

Finally be proactive and take any testing offered and do regular checks yourself, it might just be the difference in the outcome for you or a loved one.

Sisters, Ashleigh and Lauren

Can you tell us a little bit about your journeys with breast cancer?
Ashleigh: In our journey we have supported each other, we both have a breast cancer story, we both have very different stories that took totally different paths 10 years apart.

Lauren: The week before my 30th birthday, I found a painful lump in my left breast, under my arm. My work friends still remember me complaining about how much my bra hurt! After a GP visit, a mammogram, an ultrasound and a biopsy, I was diagnosed with an invasive ductal carcinoma, grade 3. This meant the cells were replicating quickly but had not yet spread outward from the breast tissue and into the lymphatic system. Surgery was done within 3 weeks- a lumpectomy with partial reconstruction.

I’ve since been through 6 rounds of chemotherapy during which I lost my hair, eyebrows and eyelashes but gained a whole bunch of weight (doesn’t seem fair to me) all of which is totally normal and a good sign of how your body is coping.

My 15 rounds of daily radiation finished on Christmas Eve. Possibly the best Christmas gift ever.

Alongside all this typical Cancer stuff, I underwent fertility treatments to harvest my eggs. I haven’t had children yet and I wasn’t willing for the option to be taken away since there is a risk chemo will cause damage to the ovaries. I also signed up for a monthly implant to medically shut down my ovaries in an extra effort to protect them.

Because of my young age, I decided to undergo genetic testing for any abnormalities that may have caused my Cancer- luckily this came back negative.

Ashleigh: I am the protective older sister – I am 33 and started my breast cancer journey when I was 19 years old. I had just started my career in the Royal New Zealand Navy when I found out I carried the BRAC1 gene mutation, this gene mutation took me from having a 12% chance of developing breast cancer to 57%. I Inherited the gene on my paternal side and had seen both my aunty and nana be diagnosed and fight breast cancer but my younger half-sister Lauren does not carry this gene mutation, however, she was diagnosed with breast cancer just weeks after her 30th birthday in 2021.

BRCA1 mutation predisposes women to breast and/or ovarian cancer. Breast cancer in BRCA1 mutation carriers is often Grade 3, triple negative, and occurs at a younger age than non-hereditary breast cancer. Male BRCA1 carriers are unlikely to develop breast cancer, but they have a heightened risk of developing prostate cancer. – directly quoted from the Breast Cancer Foundation.

I went into a surveillance programme until making the decision after a stressful couple of years to have a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction at 22. Knowing about the gene and the increased risk made me feel like a ticking time bomb, I felt like I lived in fear and knew the only way to end this was to undergo a double mastectomy and rid my chances of developing breast cancer. I felt I would be able to get on with my life, the idea of removing my breasts scared me but at that point not as much as the idea of developing breast cancer. Once the decision was made, I felt a huge weight lifted, the day arrived and off they went, I had temporary implants initially that were removed and replaced with permanent implants 18 months later. The recovery seemed long but I look back now, and it was such a small part of my life that was impacted, and I am grateful to my younger self for making that decision when I did.

I went on to have 2 little boys, there is a 50% chance that they both carry the gene and can pass it on to their future children. I am grateful for ever changing preventative medicine and cures that will hopefully be able to stop the chain with them. My journey is not yet over with BRAC1 gene also giving me a 40% chance of developing ovarian cancer, I will choose the same path as my breasts and undergo prophylactic surgery to remove my ovaries.

Sisters, Ashleigh and Lauren.
What was something you really didn’t expect?
Ashleigh: Lauren and I never expected to share this journey, as a family we never imagined to be affected twice. Our mum Michelle has been our absolute rock who has been there for us both every step of the way. We are grateful for each other and being able to support one another.

Lauren: The weight gain!  All I had ever seen about chemo is the skeletal people shown in movies.  During chemo, you actually aren’t allowed to lose weight or they will delay your treatment. Weight gain is mainly due to the steroids used to support your body against the harsh drugs used in chemo, paired with months on end of being exhausted and watching Netflix on the couch.

What’s a piece of advice you’d give to someone else in the same position as you were?

Ashleigh: If you have a family history don’t be afraid to get tested, a diagnosis is scary and my choices may not be the same as yours but knowledge is power and the medical professionals are so supportive of every person’s individual choices.

Lauren: Be an advocate for your own health. If I had told myself the pain in my breast was “nothing and I’ll be fine”, chances are I wouldn’t have noticed the cancer until it had spread to another organ.  Don’t be afraid to push for what you need from our medical system- especially in current times when it can be hard to see a doctor in person- because if you won’t fight for yourself, who will?

Ashley Green

Ashley Green

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey with breast cancer or how you’ve supported someone who has been affected by it?
Breast Cancer has affected me and my beautiful family. Dad lost his mum to breast cancer and later on only after his sister was diagnosed, our family was tested for breast cancer genes. I am the only female out of my cousins to carry the BRCA1 mutation and I was lucky to find this out at the age of 22. On my mother’s side of the family my Aunty was diagnosed around the same time as this and I was living with her through her treatment. My beautiful mum was diagnosed with breast cancer early in 2021.

What was something you really didn’t expect?
When I found out that I carry BRCA1, one of the hardest things was actually watching my family process this. I was the same and I was young and healthy but it was a strange time watching them grieve for me when I wasn’t actually sick.

Did the experience change you? If so, how?
Absolutely. Early detection is everything and I have been getting checks every 6 months for the past 8 years. I feel very lucky that I know. It taught me to live life to the fullest and that getting a check up is no big deal, it is normal.

What’s a piece of advice you’d give to someone else in the same position as you were?
Everything is going to be okay. It is a positive situation because you are now given the key to prevention. You got this girl! Check check check! X

1 Shares
You May Also Like

Dear Mum

We want to celebrate and acknowledge all of the amazing mums out there, so we reached out to…