Breast Cancer – Inspiring Stories – Part 2

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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

 

Charlotte Clare

Charlotte Clare

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey with breast cancer?
I first found my lump early January 2021. I was getting ready for a day at the beach with the family, while putting on sunscreen I noticed a lump on my side boob that just felt different. I showed my mum and husband and they both insisted to get it checked just in case, so I did. I had previously found lumps in my breasts but when I had a scan it showed that I had fibrocystic breasts, which meant that the lumps were non-cancerous and normal. So from then on lumpy breasts were just something that I expected and wasn’t too concerned about, so I stopped checking.

Once I went to the GP they referred me for scans and everything happened very quickly from there. Mammogram, ultrasound, then biopsy. I never really thought it was going to come back as cancer, I thought it was going to show as a non-cancerous lump of some sort, until one day my GP called and asked me to come into the clinic to go over my biopsy’s results.

“Unfortunately its breast cancer” everything that she said for the next 5 mins was radio silence, my husband sat there taking it all in for me while was just in shock.  I interrupted her and said, “sorry did you just say that I have breast cancer?”

“Yes.”, she said, “I’m really sorry you do. All I could think about was my two kids growing up without their mother. I felt sick.

From there I was referred to a breast surgeon, Dr Wayne Jones, who is amazing at what he does. March 2021 I underwent a double mastectomy and reconstruction. I was lucky enough with the position of my cancer that I got to keep my nipples which was a blessing.

I started chemotherapy in April and completed 4 rounds. I’m now on hormone therapy for 5-10 years to make sure it doesn’t come back.

What was something you really didn’t expect?
How I felt about myself during and after treatment. I felt like a shell of a human being, I had lost all my sexuality and femininity. With hormone suppression your body is stripped of all female hormones, I had lost my natural breast, my long blonde hair, eyelashes and eyebrows. The Breast Cancer Foundation were so generous in offering free counselling sessions during this hard time which really helped.

Did the experience change you? If so, how?
OMG so much! Not to sweat the small stuff, time is precious, value it, use it with intention. Small steps make big changes, be proud of yourself for all the progress you have made, I am loved, you can be shit scared and brave at the same time. Make time for your wellness or you will be forced to make time for your illness.

What’s a piece of advice you’d give to someone else in the same position as you were?
Don’t be so hard on yourself, give yourself time to heal. Set yourself realistic short and long term goals, some days you will achieve them others days you will not, and that’s ok. Don’t compare yourself and your journey to other people, everyone’s breast cancer journey is so different. You do you boo!

Zeta and Zandra, sisters

Zeta and Zandra, sisters

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 sister, Zandra, was diagnosed with hormone-positive breast cancer on the very first day of Lockdown in March 2020. As lockdown rules were still so new I was fortunately allowed to be there with her when she received her diagnosis and the options for her treatment were discussed.

From there on in my in-person support could only be given outside of the hospital walls as Lockdown rules meant that I couldn’t be with or see her during her week-long stay after her mastectomy or sit with her while she underwent multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation – even though I wanted nothing more than to be there with her just to talk crap and make her laugh.

Outside of hospital treatments I was always on hand to help her with whatever it was she needed – which was particularly important amidst a pandemic! Through all of the emotions, sickness, the good days and bad, I would’ve done anything – I still would – but she would’ve done the same for me just as she did for our Mum in her cancer journey.

What was something you really didn’t expect?
I guess the first thing I didn’t expect was my sister telling me she had found a lump in her breast and possibly had cancer. We both didn’t expect that she would be facing her own cancer journey only 18 months after we lost our beloved Mum to pancreatic cancer as well as our step mum 24 months prior – also to cancer. It was too much too soon and I was terrified I would lose her too.

Now, two years on, the thing I really didn’t expect is how breast cancer has changed Zandra. Never have I seen her stronger, more confident and happier in her own skin and life. She rocks her new chest and new hair and is an absolute inspirational sister, Mum, professional, gym buddy, and best friend.

Did the experience change you? If so, how?
Being part of my sister’s journey and seeing her overcome such huge obstacles with a kickass attitude really made me realise how grateful we need to be for what we have and the short time we have here.  It made me take stock of my life and what was truly important and deserved to be part of it. Seeing her so positive during and after everything she has been through has also made me realise that no matter what obstacles and challenges I am faced with, they are there as opportunities to help me learn and shape mine and my family’s future for the better.

What’s a piece of advice you’d give to someone else in the same position as you were?
I sincerely hope that no one ever has to deal with cancer affecting anyone close to them but all I can say is love them and don’t wait for them to reach out. Listen to what they are not saying as more often than not the silence or the “I’m ok” are the calls for support.

For those of you facing your own breast cancer journey, my sister has these words for you – “Keep your eyes on the prize. It’s easy to submit and think the worst but you need to focus on the end result and your recovery cos it’s a battle you always fight to win. Keep laughing and continue to make the most of your life!”

And if you aren’t already – check your tits. Regularly.

 

Renee Bell

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?
Our wonderful mum was diagnosed with early onset of breast cancer about 6 years ago. She decided what was best for her and went with a double mastectomy. We absolutely supported her decision. The breast cancer foundation provided bras with the breast prostheses mum needed and a much-needed confidence boost.

What was something you really didn’t expect?
The support from family and friends, people who hadn’t seen mum for years were making us meals for her while she stayed with us, delivering flowers, stopping in for coffee and chats, offering any support in any way they could.

Did the experience change you? If so, how?
I think it really opened our eyes to how common it is. After opening up, there were a lot of people in our shoes. I saw my mum at her weakest, and I felt it was our turn to care for her just like she has always done with her four daughters.

What’s a piece of advice you’d give to someone else in the same position as you were?
This is hard because all journeys are different here, I would say just listen to them, research, provide comfort and care, go with them to appointments as it can be very overwhelming. Love & support as much as you can. And a reminder to check those boobs!

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