Sara was 36 and married with two young children when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019.
After Sara found a lump in her breast, she went to her GP to get it checked out. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a bilateral mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy. She is focused on rebuilding her life and living a ‘new kind’ of normal. Read her letter below.
Welcome to 2030! It’s been 10 years, you totes smashed it…. fist pump! There was many a day you didn’t think we’d make it this far, men and women were losing their lives daily to breast cancer and you were secretly sure you’d be one of them. It’s clear to me, that either I’ve grown a second personality, or we are now two really different people: the person Before Cancer (BC) and the person After Diagnosis (AD).
Remember your BC days? Oh, how I wish we could have that ignorance back, that blissful, selfish beautiful ignorance, where life was a given and death happened only in old age. Where a 70% chance of surviving 10 years sounded like damn good odds. Where having breast implants sounded like a simple trade-off to stay alive. That is of course until you’re actually faced with it.
So many bad mammories… Like the day you noticed a tiny lump in the shower, and you were pretty sure it was hormonal but decided to mention it to the GP a couple of weeks later on your 10-year wedding anniversary, just in case. And now every year on your wedding anniversary, all you remember is after your ultrasound the ominous way the radiologist said, ‘It’s very important you return as soon as possible for a biopsy, do not wait’. You were only 36, you thought your chances were so slim.
Sitting in your GP’s waiting room the day before Valentine’s Day was the only time EVER that the doctor called your name right on time – and you still didn’t clock that the results might be bad. Do you remember the look on her face when you asked, through tears, if this was a death sentence? Back then, my sweetheart, it potentially was, but now, we’ve finally reached zero deaths to breast cancer.
You met the bosom surgeon a week later, who would become one of your favourite specialists. He said he could fit you in the next day or the next week and of course, you said, ‘Screw it let’s do it’, and found yourself under the knife 24 hours later. In hindsight, this was the very moment that set the tone for your whole journey. You’d do what you needed to do as soon as you needed to do it and just smash it out, no waiting, no fretting, no delays, from here on in your eye is on the prize. But it was never quite smooth sailing and your prize wasn’t ever quite where you expected it to be.
Remember waking up from the anesthetic, hysterically asking over and over, through your tears, if you had been given a drain bag as that indicated it had spread to the lymph nodes? Only to find yourself hours later praying to God that it was ‘only’ Stage 3 and hadn’t spread anywhere else in your body.
You’ve been such a strong woman; I know everyone liked to tell you that and I also know it started to bother you. Because you felt like you weren’t portraying the reality of breast cancer. The impact it had on not just you but your whole family. The way you had to explain to your five and eight-year-old what cancer, chemotherapy, mastectomy and radiation was. The way your husband could do nothing but hold you when you sobbed into his chest, insisting that you ‘did everything right, you were a good person, you were a good mum, you don’t understand how this happened and you just want to see your babies grow up’. The way you never really discussed your fears with your mum until she was on her death bed a mere three weeks after you finished your chemo.
Remember everyone telling you how good your skin looked during chemo? It happened so often you started suggesting to people they should all try it. And after a few months, you stopped crying in the shower and even started to stand up rather than sit on the floor. Whoever invented shower radios is a Godsend as eventually you even started dancing.
You totally rocked short hair and your husband didn’t divorce you like he used to say he would if you ever cut your hair short. It was just a bit of a shame that half of it fell out in the shower and your son started crying when he realised you were crying. Remember bagging it up in a Woollies shopping bag (they were still plastic in those days) and popping it all in the bin? These days it’d be considered organic material and would go in the green bin for sure.
In 2019, treatment for breast cancer was pretty brutal. A lumpectomy, 16 rounds of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, 25 rounds of radiation, 10 years of monthly needles, daily tablets and a medical menopause at 36 years of age. Oh and don’t forget the poo tablets, the ones that you had to take for a year to reduce your recurrence risk but would potentially give you grade 4 diarrhea.
You always figured your physical wounds over time will heal, but the emotional ones might never go away. You thought cancer would be a lifelong illness.
But babe, do you remember that day, sitting on the couch, compulsively Googling mastectomies, until you made yourself cry? Only to accidentally happen across the National Breast Cancer Foundation’s website, where you started reading about all their research projects and for the first time in months you felt real hope. You realised people were out there trying to find a solution for us. And it brought you such joy, something to hang on to, a possible life, a long one. And so you stopped crying and signed up to be an ambassador, because you were so desperate to see a world without cancer, or at the very least stop women and men having to experience what you did. You were so desperate to live, to see your babies as men, to grow old with your husband, to cradle your grandchildren.
Creating awareness brought you hope, and back then hope was the next best thing to making this disease a thing of the past. You were so brave to share your personal story to complete strangers. It was scary and embarrassing but all worth it in the end because they’ve done it, we’ve done it!
It’s 2030, your firstborn is now a man and your baby is close behind. You hold your husband’s hand every day with a deep understanding of how lucky you all are. And best of all, there are ZERO deaths from breast cancer. You can exhale now babe, you’re finally safe.