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October 10, 2014

Adel, NSW – I just took it like it was the flu and went on with life

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2011.

I remember the night I was talking to a girlfriend and I felt itchy on my left breast. I went to scratch and felt a lump at 11 o’clock. I though “Oh!” and again felt the lump and thought “Oh, it must be my hormones playing up.” I told my girlfriend but didn’t really worry about it.

I went to my GP the next day. I walked into the waiting room and saw about 12 people waiting. I didn’t have the patience so I went again the next morning. Once my GP felt it, he told me to go straight to the breast specialist, and I booked an appointment for the next week.

As I’m a single mum, all I could think of was, “Who’s going to look after my 11 year old son?”

Finally I saw my breast specialist Dr Cindy Mak and she made appointments for an ultra sound, mammogram and a biopsy.

At the medical centre during the ultrasound, the nurse said “I have to get the doctor,” and by then I knew it was breast cancer.I went back to see Dr Mak and she informed that yes, it is breast cancer. My mum was with me and she started to cry. I told her to stop crying, that all I have to do is remove my breast and I will be ok.

I asked for a double mastectomy but Dr Mak said that first we needed to look after the breast with cancer. I still asked for a double mastectomy but it was a no go.

In November 2011, I had a mastectomy on my left breast. Then in January 2012 I started chemo for four months. It took a lot out of me, but I just dealt with it.

Still in the back of my mind I wanted to take my right breast off. I hated the prosthesis and especially the swimming ones. So uncomfortable.

Then last year I went on a waiting list to have another mastectomy and double reconstruction. The reason they didn’t do this at first was because I suffer chronic spinal and lower back pain, and Dr Mak was worried about my pain level.

In April 2012 after chemo, I started on tamoxifen, which I was told I’d be on for five years, which has now turned to ten years. July this year, I went back into Royal Prince Alfred (RPA) Hospital and finally took my right breast off. They put expanders in each breast. When I woke up from surgery, I understood then why she did not originally remove both breasts at the same time: I was in RPA hospital for two weeks.

During the past seven weeks I’ve been going into the Chris O’Brien life house for my injections in my breast expanders. I have four more injections to go, then back to RPA in October for the implants, which I’m quite excited about.

I look back and say to myself, “Why was I naïve about check-ups for breast cancer, since my grandmother died at 39 years old of double breast cancer?” Also, my dad had prostate cancer and survived. His sister, my aunty, was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago and two of her sisters had mouth cancer and then my cousin, their niece, had cervical cancer.

I had a mammogram in 2007 when the Medicare system offered free mammograms for woman in their forties. I thought they would send a reminder every two years, but I was wrong.

I never thought I would get breast cancer but never said “Why me?” I just took it like it was the flu and went on with life, especially as a single mum to a 13 year-old boy.