Over the last 8 months I’ve been on a very personal and life changing journey. I wanted to share this with you in the hope that it can save lives and bring even more awareness. Yes, we do pink breakfasts, pink walks, a whole month dedicated to BC awareness but it’s still not enough.
So many women still seem quite desensitised and completely miss these initiatives. I have learnt by talking to many women that this is a topic not many want to talk about openly. That’s really scary and I challenge that and that is why I wrote this when the Breast Cancer Foundation reached out and asked if I would want to share my story. I think we need to talk more and share our experiences. We are all mothers, wives, daughters and sisters. If we can save lives by talking about our experience, take the shame and embarrassment away, bring awareness and create a norm for women to freely dialogue to their doctors their concerns, then we can really start to fight the good fight against breast cancer by means of early detection. In this short space of time, I’ve met so many amazing and brave women. I’ve also met so many women who were curious - just curious as to how my diagnosis came about. They just didn’t understand the value of self-examinations, the need for diligently attending their screening appointments and the value of openly saying to their doctors that something is just not right within their bodies.
And in case you are curious about my current state of health. I’ve had surgery, my body has endured the harshest of treatments and I’m looking ahead to the road to healing and recovery. And this has only been possible through the unconditional love, understanding and support of my family, friends and colleagues.
Below is my write up that was featured on the Breast Cancer Foundation, NZ’s website:
I’m not sharing this because I think anyone is culpable or responsible for my diagnosis - as to be honest I don’t have the facts to know and there is no evidence to support that claim. I am sharing this story because I want women to know that sometimes we are reassured that our bodies are well and there isn’t anything sinister going on, but we must remain vigilant, proactive and listen to our bodies.
About 18 months ago, I started experiencing intense breast pain. It coincided with my period at times and sometimes it was just random. I mentioned this to my GP who proactively referred me to a specialist who saw me within 10 days of the referral. After undergoing a mammogram and an ultrasound I was told that my breasts were clear and the pain could be hormonal activity increasing with age (as I turned 40 last year). In November 2018, I developed a painful lump in my left breast. Again – without delay, my GP referred me to another specialist. They did an ultrasound first and discovered a second area of concern. This was not visible in the mammogram and only detected in my ultrasound.
After my biopsies, they told me the painful lump in my nipple (initially discovered by me) was a grade 1 breast cancer and the one discovered in my ultrasound was a grade 2 breast cancer. They were surprised these were not visible in my ultrasound 6 months prior and they felt that it potentially could have been there. Anyway, after my surgery, it was confirmed that it had travelled to 8 of my lymph nodes (my surgeon had removed a total of 20).
I don’t have any risk factors - there is no family history, I don’t smoke, I maintain a fairly healthy lifestyle and breastfed both my babies. I was quite complacent in my thinking that there may be a chance that I could get any other cancers but I would never get breast cancer because I didn’t have the risk factors- I didn’t fit the criteria at all.
The message I am trying to convey is please don’t be ignorant like me, breast cancer doesn’t discriminate, often we become too busy in our lives and we prioritise ourselves last because we are wives, mothers and busy career women and we generally lead busy lives. Perhaps there was a tumour there that wasn’t visible that was causing my pain, perhaps there wasn’t - we don’t know. After seeing the specialist in May I continued having these pains and thought that my pain was related to hormonal activity. Had I got back again earlier perhaps it may have been picked up- perhaps not, perhaps it may not have travelled to my lymph nodes. I don’t know.
We must listen to our bodies, be brave and talk openly about changes and take action quickly (without leaving it and thinking that in time it will go away).
If your GP (General Practitioner) isn’t as proactive as you then please go to another GP.