No rhyme or rea­son

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY SARAH SCULLY

Hor­sham’s Ja­nine English had just turned 50, ran sev­eral times a week, went to the gym and watched what she ate.

She con­sid­ered her­self healthy – un­til a rou­tine breast check turned her world up­side down.

“You see breast can­cer on tele­vi­sion and in the news­pa­pers. You know it ex­ists – you see it everywhere – but you don’t ex­pect it to hap­pen to you,” Mrs English said.

“There is no rhyme or rea­son for it, un­for­tu­nately. I guess if there was, we’d be half­way to a cure.”

A re­cep­tion­ist at Lister House Clinic, Mrs English quickly booked her­self in for an ap­point­ment. But life was about to get even tougher. “At the time, my mother was in the hos­pi­tal un­well,” Mrs English said.

“She passed away the day I had my ul­tra­sound and mam­mo­gram. I found out it was can­cer the day of the fu­neral.

“You know what it’s like when some­thing goes wrong – you want your mum to be there. It made it even harder.

“It was a shock. She wasn’t re­ally sick, she just went into hos­pi­tal with an in­fec­tion and it was just one of those things.”

Mrs English un­der­went a mas­tec­tomy to re­move her right breast and started chemo­ther­apy in Bal­larat soon af­ter.

She said walk­ing into the on­col­ogy de­part­ment and see­ing other pa­tients hooked up to ma­chines was in­cred­i­bly con­fronting.

“I think I just sat there and cried all day,” she said.

Mrs English had three chemo­ther­apy ses­sions be­fore switch­ing to Her­ceptin, a drug used to treat Her2-pos­i­tive early breast can­cer.

She had Her­ceptin treat­ment, given in­tra­venously, every three weeks for 12 months.

“You do get very used to the process af­ter a while and it does be­come your nor­mal,” Mrs English said.

“I think the worst thing is that most peo­ple can hide be­hind their ill­nesses, but not when you’ve got can­cer and your hair falls out.

“For me that was one of the worst bits. You not only feel aw­ful, you look aw­ful too. And that’s not be­ing vain, it’s just that other peo­ple can walk around with ill­nesses and no one looks at them, but when you lose your hair you can’t go anywhere with­out peo­ple look­ing at you and think­ing you’re prob­a­bly go­ing to die.”

Four and a half years af­ter she was di­ag­nosed, Mrs English feels like her ‘nor­mal’ self again.

Surgeons spent 18 months re­con­struct­ing her breast, her hair has grown back and she is healthy and fight­ing fit – but Mrs English must al­ways re­main vig­i­lant.

“About 12 months ago I found an­other lump un­der my arm and the can­cer was back in one of my lymph nodes,” she said.

“I thought I was go­ing back down that path again – back to the chemo – but thank­fully they op­er­ated and it wasn’t anywhere else. I only had to change my med­i­ca­tion. At the mo­ment ev­ery­thing is fine and I feel back to how I was be­fore.”

Mrs English said sup­port from fam­ily, friends and work col­leagues helped her through the tough­est of times.

“I had a lovely group of friends I was go­ing run­ning with and one of the ladies in that group also had breast can­cer,” she said.

“She was able to say ‘you’ll be right’ and give me words of en­cour­age­ment when I was down. I could bounce ques­tions off her as well. That group was a great sup­port.”

Be­com­ing in­volved in Hor­sham’s Mother’s Day helped.

The com­mu­nity event in­volves a walk and a run and raises money for Na­tional Breast Can­cer Foun­da­tion re­search.

One in eight Aus­tralian women is di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer by the age of 85.

Mrs English said re­search was vi­tal to en­sure fewer women had to en­dure a breast can­cer bat­tle.

“When I had my first Her­ceptin treat­ment, I was the first per­son there in the morn­ing and the last one to leave at night, but by the end of the 12 months they got me in and out in an hour,” she said.

“An­other girl I’ve spo­ken to since, had Her­ceptin treat­ment every three weeks by in­jec­tion. So just in that short pe­riod of time, the treat­ment has got better.

“If my treat­ment has changed in four years then who knows where we’ll be in an­other four.

“That’s what we’re all work­ing to­wards with the Mother’s Day Clas­sic – al­though hope­fully what we’re even­tu­ally work­ing to­wards is hav­ing it gone com­pletely.”

• For more on the Mother’s Day Clas­sic, see page 21. Clas­sic com­mit­tee has also SCHUBERTS PEST SER­VICES

ONE IN EIGHT: Hor­sham breast can­cer sur­vivor Ja­nine English hopes events such as the Mother’s Day Clas­sic will help erad­i­cate the dis­ease through fund­ing vi­tal re­search. Pic­ture: PAUL CARRACHER

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