I was always good about having regular mammograms, and on November 21, 2013 when I had mine, I was not worried about the result since it’s always been normal before. I had not received a letter about the results when the unthinkable and unexpected happened.
I received a phone call from Westmead BCI clinic, saying that I had been recalled for further assessment and repeat mammogram. I left my work early instead of completing my morning shift as a registered nurse. The repeated test showed an abnormality therefore an ultrasound as well as a fine needle and core biopsy were all done at the same appointment.
After a week of sleepless nights, I was called again at BCI & was told to take my husband with me. December 17, 2013 is imprinted on my mind. I will always remember this day when the doctor said, “I’m sorry” – the results confirmed a diagnosis of right invasive carcinoma. It felt like a death sentence for me, I cried so much and I shouted “NO, Not Me…”
The doctor held my hand, and when I heard her words saying to me that ‘You are blessed because it was early detection,’ I started to calm down and composed myself.
It all seemed to happen so quickly – an appointment was made to see my surgeon for a mastectomy operation. It was not possible to have it done earlier due to the Christmas season, plus our family had planned a dream cruise to the South Pacific Islands for two weeks. I received reassuring advice from the team to go on our vacation and pursue the dream with my husband and two boys, as well as using the time to discuss my surgery and prepare them emotionally. Our family immensely enjoyed our first cruise, celebrating New Year’s Eve at sea and totally forgetting about my cancer diagnosis.
January 28, 2014 was the big day for my operation at Westmead hospital – a right mastectomy with axillary clearance. I recovered quickly from the surgery and went home within 2 days. At my post-op appointment my specialist revealed a further blow – it was Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma with lymph node invasion. My world went into a tailspin because I had to undergo both Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy. Chemotherapy started 6 weeks after my operation, lasting a total of 24 weeks.
I also needed a Port-a-cath inserted during my chemotherapy as it became difficult to find my veins. After that I had daily radiotherapy for 6 weeks. The short and long term side effects of breast cancer treatment were not pleasant. For me there was fatigue, nausea, hair loss, scarring, lymphoedema, mouth ulcers and neuropathy in the hands and feet. There are many visits for treatments, doctors’ visits and appointments. You just don’t realise how much stress your system is under and then also having to juggle your family commitments. But then all of a sudden it’s done, treatment is finished.
I look at Cancer as a gift – a part of my path in life rather than an obstacle to get over or past. Yes, it’s been a major event in my life. These events have sent me in changing directions throughout my life and so has cancer. It’s a wakeup call – to stop and have some ‘ME’ time. There will always be painful triggers and past fears, self-doubts, and mistakes, -all of which I have faced, dealt with and they are gone. I wanted to live to see my family grow and see my grandchildren given the chance. Now, 3 years on I am a new me. Well, maybe even better! My life has changed and my confidence has returned. I have more time for relaxation, meeting friends, enjoying life -even my sense of humour has returned. Life is a gift – make the most of every day. Whatever that means to you, whatever you can do, no matter how small it seems. Once someone chooses hope and takes action, anything is possible as well as maintaining a good and faithful relationship with God.
My keys to cancer victory were a positive attitude, prayer, will to live, support of family and friends, a healthy diet and exercise, and having an open mind to alternative proven solutions. I would be forever grateful to my surgeon, Oncologist team, all staff of Westmead Breast Cancer Institute and all the other teams that have supported me in my ordeal. Also to my loving family, in laws, relatives, incredible friends- here and afar, colleagues and prayer community groups for their loving, warm support, kindness, and words of encouragement for inspiring me and for continued prayers throughout my journey. Remember that there are only 2 days in our lives that we can do nothing about: one is yesterday, which is gone; while the other is tomorrow which is uncertain and may not come at all. We can only live today, so enjoy, love, work, relax and above all pray.
Thank you Lord for all who have been with me throughout my journey.
“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.”