The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - PEOPLE - AS TOLD TO DENISE RAWARD


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.

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