‘I FELT SILLY EVEN BRINGING IT UP’
Annalise Harvey, 33, lives in NSW and feels grateful for her life every day
‘No matter how busy life gets, your health comes first’
I GREW up in Tasmania, and after I graduated with a Bachelor of Biomedical Science, I moved to Sydney and worked in a pathology lab in a hospital. When I was diagnosed, I took six months off work for treatment. This taught me an important lesson – no matter how busy life gets, at the end of the day, your health comes first.
I felt a lump in my breast one day, but assumed it was nothing as it felt quite large. I rationalised that I don’t have any family history and I was 27, so surely it couldn’t have been anything serious!
I waited nearly two months before I spoke to a doctor. I made an appointment to see a GP as I thought I had a sinus infection, and while I was with the doctor, the lump crossed my mind. I decided to mention it, but first said to the doctor that I felt silly even bringing it up and was sure it was nothing. Luckily the doctor told me it was never silly to get anything checked and wrote me a referral to an ultrasound centre. I went for the ultrasound the next day, but was told the lump was normal, was just a hormonal change and did not require further testing.
I took these results to my regular GP, who suggested that as hormones can be responsible for changes in breast tissue, I should return for a second ultrasound at a different imaging centre.
This ultrasound was very different. The technician called the radiologist in during the ultrasound. I could tell they were concerned. They asked me to visit my doctor the next day for my results. I collected my results from the imaging centre, and they described the lump as suspicious and recommended
I had an urgent biopsy. While waiting to speak to my GP, I burst into tears in the waiting room and was ushered into the treatment room to wait. By the time I saw her, she had already made me an appointment to see a breast surgeon that afternoon, who arranged a biopsy that day.
It was a Friday. By Monday, I knew it was cancer.
It has been nearly five years now since I was diagnosed. I am in a very good place – I am with an amazing partner, I have a great job that I enjoy and we travel often.
I still get a little nervous sometimes, particularly around my annual checkups, but I’m lucky that I have great doctors, nurses and support. I’m not afraid to ask for help if I need it and have had some counselling.
The biggest lesson I learnt is not to stress the small stuff. When
I feel the daily stresses of life creep in, I try to remember how lucky and grateful I am. It gets hard to do sometimes, but feeling thankful for the people around you and feeling healthy and strong is so important.
In Australia, around 74 women in their 20s will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year.