DURING BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH, THIS YOUNG MUM SHARES HER SURVIVAL STORY
“BEING PREGNANT WAS THE UNKNOWN. MY CANCER WAS HORMONE POSITIVE.”
Igrew up at Mermaid Beach and was about 14 or 15 when my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 39 and had a lumpectomy and radiotherapy and she’s been clear ever since.
In 2011 when I was 29, just two months before I was due to get married, I found a lump in my breast. I had a 3cm lump taken out and just carried on with life. Tests showed the breast cancer wasn’t hereditary. It was just one of those things.
I got married and 18 months later was thrilled to find out I was pregnant. We’d been trying for ages. Then, at 11 weeks pregnant, I was diagnosed again with breast cancer. I knew the initial scar from the lumpectomy was different, it had changed. At first they said it was just the scarring but further testing showed the cancer had come back.
The doctors advised me to terminate the pregnancy so I could begin treatment. My first reaction was that I wasn’t going to terminate my baby. There had to be something else.
I swapped from the public system to the private and found another doctor. He said terminating was my best option but he said, “This is what we can do”. That was all I needed to hear. He suggested a mastectomy and was pushing for chemotherapy.
I’d seen so many people suffer bad effects from chemo. It works for a lot of people, but being pregnant, no one could give me any real answers about what it would do to my baby. At that stage there’d never been any real testing of it.
I’ve since been in contact with women who’ve had chemotherapy while they were pregnant but it wasn’t the choice for me. I decided to have the mastectomy and get radiotherapy after the baby was born.
At 15 weeks pregnant, I had my breast removed and, rather than chemo, I tried alternative therapies — metabolic therapy, antioxidants, no sugar, no junk food, all organic and natural. I was super healthy.
It was pretty hard but it was the most beneficial way for my baby. Being pregnant was the unknown. My cancer was hormone positive. I didn’t know what the pregnancy hormones were going to do.
My daughter Violet was born at term in February 2013 and two weeks later I had radiotherapy every day for six weeks. It was pretty awful. I had to travel to Brisbane at the time, all with a new baby. I was so tired, I didn’t know what sleep was. But having her meant it was all worth it too.
Later on, I took a tablet every day, an oestrogen blocker, and had injections to bring on artificial menopause. It meant I couldn’t have any more kids.
Then I think I needed to finalise it. To make sure it wasn’t coming back, I had the second breast removed two years later. It was always a bit unnatural with one.
It was oddly liberating to have them both gone. I thought “I’m even”. I’ve since had reconstruction surgery.
It was a hectic time. It was crazy for a couple of years there. I had my moments but I have an amazing husband. It’s been nearly eight years now. Our families and friends were great supports too.
My husband had a young daughter when I was first diagnosed and I think that helped because we always had to be really conscious of how we reacted around her. She was amazing too.
My best advice to other people going through it is don’t freak out. Just try to focus on the immediate, on what’s in front of you.
Violet is five and a half now. We’re just so happy to have her.
I got involved with the National Breast Cancer Foundation because they were such a great support for me, particularly at the beginning. I do what I can to raise awareness.
I tell other women you have to check everything. I try to make them aware they need to be checking more often from a young age. I thought it happened to older ladies but breast cancer can happen to women at any age. You have to be vigilant.