Lorraine was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, just weeks after she retired as a school teacher.
After intensive treatment, including surgery and radiotherapy, Lorraine was prescribed hormone therapy drug Arimidex for five years. Throughout her breast cancer journey, Lorraine was supported by her husband, Wayne, and their cavoodle dogs, Bundy and Chardy. She remains positive and is determined to enjoy life for a long time to come. Read her letter below.
Dearest Me (Lorraine),
Well girl, you just stand up and take a bow! Who would have thought that you would still be bouncing around enjoying life at 70 being a breast cancer survivor of 14 years? But you are, and I love you for that.
Remember the day on the cruise ship mid-April 2016, showering after the spa and how you felt that lump in your right breast, just above the nipple that just didn’t feel right? It worried you so much and you thought the worst of yourself and your future life (or lack there would be of it). But now in 2030, the National Breast Cancer Foundation has achieved their goal of zero deaths from breast cancer so nobody has to have those worries or fears!
You carried on that cruise as best you could knowing full well that you had to see the GP immediately on your return, as early detection was vital to breast cancer recovery. So just on a week later you were sitting in the surgery waiting to go in, hoping it to be nothing to worry about but also wondering if you were going to be given a death sentence or begin that long journey on the Breast Cancer train with so many others. The GP sent you to the brand new Holy Spirit Northside Breast Health Centre for further investigation. Everything moved so quickly but you were still so very worried about what was to come. Again, isn’t it great that now in 2030, no-one has to live with these fears!
After a few hours of imaging and consultations with the breast screen doctor your fears were confirmed and a needle biopsy was necessary. Not the most pleasant procedure to endure but it had to be done and sent to pathology for confirmation of the worst. A few days later you had to return to the GP for the results. This you had to do alone as your husband, Wayne, was working in Darwin. As the GP told you the bad news, your eyes welled with tears and your whole body was numb with the thought that this was a death sentence. How thankful that no-one has to hear these words or feel that numbness ever again as breast cancer is like leprosy – a disease that no longer claims lives.
As the GP rang Wayne to tell him the news, you sat there feeling that your time as a wife was about to end and you would have to start your funeral plans. What a worrying time you went through and how strong you were as your friends and family gathered around you to support you, most of them not knowing what to do or say. Most brought food and flowers.
Next step was to see the breast surgeon, with Wayne by your side. You heard that you had “INVASIVE” breast cancer, what a scary word that was. You thought that the cancer cells were invading your entire body. Bookings were made for a Wide Local Excision at Holy Spirit Hospital on the 4th May 2016. Star Wars Day!
Post-surgery recovery was to be for at least six weeks where you returned to the surgeon and discovered some good news. You had a 16mm, Grade 1, invasive ductal cancer but the margins were clear and those little cancer cells had not reached the lymph nodes. What a relief that was and a clear reward for early detection and prompt action.
A month later you went to Sydney for your father-in-law’s 80th birthday. What a weekend that was! The weather was atrocious and your right breast was giving you heaps of grief but being forever thoughtful of those around you, you did not let on to anyone but Wayne that you were suffering. I love you for always thinking of others throughout your journey! On return from Sydney, another visit to the GP diagnosed you with Staph infection. The GP said it looked as though you had already gone through the radiation treatment but that was yet to come!
On the 15th June 2016 you had to put on your big girl pants and brave it again for the preparation for radiation. Measurements had to be taken and three tiny tattoos had to be inked onto your breast areas for the six weeks of radiation that was about to begin.
Radiation was a daily treatment for six weeks and as Wayne drove me to the Genesis Cancer Council each day it was a very daunting experience. You would sit in the waiting room (with soon to become familiar faces) not helping but to wonder if these other women of all ages, sizes, complexions and some with head turbans disguising their loss of hair, were going to survive their treatment. Not a fear we have anymore with zero deaths from breast cancer! As the weeks rolled by and various medical people all set you up for radiation, topless, dignity was thrown out the door. Survival was your driving force. As the weeks went by you religiously smothered your breast with “MooGoo” (a quality moisturiser) to reduce the burn, alas the burn arrived at about five weeks in! What a trooper you were to soldier on. I really admire your strength and love you for keeping on and NOT giving up!
After thousands of dollars and six weeks’ time you were to move to the next stage of treatment. An appointment was made to see the medical oncologist, Dr Rick. He was so lovely explaining to you how certain medications work against those nasty cancer cells. He prescribed for you to have a bone density test so as to make sure that the right medication was prescribed that would not make your bones brittle. Density test done, Arimidex prescribed for five years….five years! So then you began swallowing a little white pill every morning for the next five years.
During that time, three monthly check-ups with the breast surgeon, the radiation oncologist and the medical oncologist always kept your cancer journey alive and ongoing, but you did what you had to do; you paid the doctor’s fees and you kept a positive attitude, you embraced life, you supported others with their health woes and you became a better person. I loved you before your diagnosis and I love you even more now that you have survived this journey.
I love the fact that early detection was your saviour. In 2019, 19,535 were diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Now, I love that in a coffee group of any number of people, no-one will be diagnosed with breast cancer, but back in those days 1 in 7 was going to have breast cancer. I love that from 2030 onwards no-one will have breast cancer as the cause of death on their death certificate, how great is that!
In closing I have to say, you are a survivor, you are beautiful, even with a surgery scar on your breast. You have a long way to go in life still and I love how your husband Wayne has been your rock and support from before diagnosis to this day in 2030.
Love you always,