I was having a routine mammogram when they found a large lump. I had always had lumpy breasts but neither I nor my GP could feel this lump. I went for an ultrasound and while they were doing it, people just kept coming in and I thought, “Oh, okay, everyone’s taking a lot of interest in this.” The biopsies then confirmed that it was cancer.
I’d had benign breast lumps and biopsies practically my whole life, so I’d already had a strategy that if they found something, I was just going to have a mastectomy on both sides. And so once I did get my diagnosis, that was my plan. Certainly the tumour looked too large to just do a lumpectomy or do any saving of the breast tissue.
Of course, they wanted to do everything in two weeks and so that is a bit head-spinning. I just sort of thought, “Well, great I’ll have my breasts removed. End of checklist.” But then they found I had positive lymph nodes and I needed to have full axillary clearance on the right. I think that was the most daunting because it meant it had spread and I was also worried about the lymphoedema risk.
I really felt like I was spiralling out of control at that point and knew I needed to learn some anxiety management − the breast care nurses and the Cancer Council relaxation and meditation CDs really helped with that.
After the surgery, I started seven months of chemotherapy. And then I had five weeks of radiation therapy. I was lucky I could have it close to home – it made such a difference not having to travel.
I chose the bilateral mastectomy because I was so busty, it would have been odd to have just one done. Although, having said that, I would now always encourage someone to do the least amount of surgery that they’re advised to do. Because things have changed even in the five years since I had my surgery.