Fighting ‘ticking time bomb’
Orchardist Cherie Drummond had put off her first mammogram for six months while she helped oversee the harvest of 260,000 boxes of apples and 200,000 trays of kiwifruit.
But once all the royal gala, pink lady, braeburns and others were packed and gone, the Riwaka mother-of-two finally got around to making her appointment.
If Drummond, then 45, had left it another six months the ‘‘ticking time bomb’’ in her chest wall could well have gone off. Before her free screening picked up a 37mm mass, she’d had no symptoms of breast cancer and no risk factors.
‘‘I made an appointment, completely forgot about it, missed the first one and went the next week,’’ Drummond says.
‘‘Cancer fullstop is not in my family and I don’t really drink alcohol, don’t smoke, actually am pretty active and not obese. It was totally not on the radar.’’
Nelson breast surgeon Ros Pochin said most women diagnosed with breast cancer did not have a family history or risk factors. This makes screening all the more important – New Zealand Ministry of Health data shows a 30 percent reduction in mortality with regular screening.
After Drummond’s first appointment, she was recalled to Nelson for another mammogram. She says she ‘‘still didn’t take it seriously’’. It wasn’t until she was then sent for an ultrasound scan that it hit home.
‘‘Before the ultrasound I still felt extremely flippant, but by the end of that I changed my tune because they were definitely focusing on one area.’’
She had to return for a biopsy that afternoon.
‘‘After the biopsy, I rang [husband] Aaron and said, ‘Oh, I don’t think it’s good’.’’
Further appointments followed – an MRI scan in Blenheim and a first meeting with Pochin.
‘‘It felt like a real long time between getting told and when I went to see the specialist. Once I got to see her, they were really good.
‘‘She gave me the options – mastectomy, mastectomy and reconstruction. She booked me in to see the plastic surgeon to discuss the pros and cons of both.’’
She chose a reconstruction using latissimus dorsi muscle from her back. ‘‘They have to disconnect it and bring it around the front. I made that decision because I’m still young and I like to run and do physical activities. It gives you more support, more natural shape.’’
Because Drummond’s cancer was caught early, she did not need chemotherapy nor radiation therapy.
Even though Drummond is a private person, she’s speaking out to encourage others to take up the free mammograms.
‘‘With people I know I tell them but otherwise I’d just keep it to myself. I’m not going to share or write on Facebook. This is hard for me to be public.
‘‘But it could help somebody else.’’
Cherie ‘Ginger Crunch’ Drummond in action for the Sirens of Smash roller derby team. She has returned to the sport after her mastectomy and reconstruction.