Fight­ing ‘tick­ing time bomb’

The Press - - News - JOANNA DAVIS

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.

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