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.
Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum
Need legal and financial assistance?
Pro bono services, financial and legal assistance, and no interest loans
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment
Cancer Council Online Community
A community forum – a safe place to share stories, get tips and connect with people who understand
Visit our YouTube channel
Stories and videos produced by Cancer Council NSW
Connect with us on Facebook
Join the conversation for up-to-date news and stories from the community