Sinead was a 37-year-old and mother to three wonderful children when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. After surgery, Sinead’s treatment plan involved chemotherapy, radiotherapy and 12 months of intravenous Herceptin. She says she met some incredible people through her breast cancer experience – from medical staff to other cancer patients – and says her own story of breast cancer gives her the opportunity to raise awareness of the disease. Read her letter below.
Although you don’t know me yet, you will, as I am you in 10 years’ time. The year is 2030 and it’s now 40 years since you lost your aunty to breast cancer. It’s 21 years since your own breast cancer diagnosis and 12 years since your mother was diagnosed. What a ride it has been.
I know you look back on 2009 with bittersweet memories. You were 37 and it was the year your youngest son was born. Nine months afterward you were diagnosed with Stage 3 invasive breast cancer. It was the year you faced many challenges, including a bilateral mastectomy, six months of chemotherapy, five weeks of radiotherapy and 12 months of intravenous Herceptin treatment. Combined with getting your daughter, aged five, off to her first year of primary school and your three-year-old son into preschool. It was a year of horrendously long and hard days. Days that never seemed to end and when you thought the world was against you in every way.
Looking back thank goodness you trusted your inner instincts. You remembered what your lovely aunty had endured when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in the 1980s. I’m so proud of you for seeking more answers to why you felt so tired and investigating that niggling red swollen left breast. Thank goodness you were not happy with your initial diagnosis of just having mastitis from breastfeeding. You got that referral for that mammogram and you did it – you made that enormous leap forward to get the answers.
I know it was not what you wanted to hear… you were hoping to hear, ‘It’s just blocked milk ducts and we can drain those easily.’ Instead, you heard the words, ‘This is very serious…. you have breast cancer and you are going to need a mastectomy and extensive treatment.’
That day, your life changed forever. I am so proud of you for having the courage to stand up and tell your story. You devoted many hours over the past 21 years as an NBCF ambassador, telling your story. At times it was challenging to get the inner strength to continue. Reliving those dark days is never easy. However, even when faced with that inner feeling of doubt, you were determined to get the message out there that breast cancer does not discriminate. It affects woman of all ages.
Now that it’s 2030 – the year the National Breast Cancer Foundation has achieved their goals of zero deaths from breast cancer. Your children are all grown up aged 26, 23 and 21. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that the world has changed. We can all live in a world without fear of breast cancer. There are so many more options to diagnose and treat the disease now. Less invasive treatments than what I and my precious mum and aunt had to endure.
What a rollercoaster it has been. There have been so many lessons along the way. Trusting yourself. Quashing the fear of the return of cancer. Creating many beautiful and special memories with those you love the most. Book that next adventure and seek that new challenge. Just grab life, embrace it and enjoy the years ahead with your precious family and friends.