On July 24 we celebrated Gracies second birthday. We openly talk and joke about how Grace is our best baby, and it is true. Maybe just a typical third child? I dunno. She is the easy one, she fends for herself, puts herself to sleep, goes head to head with the other two, she is Miss Independent and is even toilet training herself. We are very lucky to have her, but I am even more grateful - she is my blessing and my little life saver.
Why is she my life saver? Before 12 months of age Gracie weaned herself, a good 6-8 months ahead of the others. She just wasn’t into it, but I think she knew that she needed to. I also think that she is such an independent baby because she knew I wouldn’t be able to be the mother I wanted to be with her.
Not long after she weaned herself I was showering with the kids and saw a lump on my right breast in the mirror - I didn’t feel it - I saw it, a large lump mass that I thought was mastitis. I didn’t go to my GP straight away. I genuinely thought it was mastitis and was hoping I could express it out. Well, it didn’t go away, and the milk being expressed was a yucky colour. I am ashamed to admit that I also didn’t go to the GP straight away because I was busy with work, kids, home etc something I am really angry at myself for.
I finally saw my GP in September for an annual health check up that I do for my birthday. My GP didn’t muck around, there were no reassuring words of “oh, it’s just your breast going back to normal” or “you’re too young”, there were immediate referrals for mammograms, ultrasounds and biopsies.
Fast forward to the October 12, 2020, at 35 years of age with 3 children 4 years and under, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I was one of 1,000 women under the age of 40 in Australia to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020. It’s f*cked. It’s unfair. But it happens, and it happened to me.
Your world stands still when you are faced with a cancer diagnosis. At that stage I didn’t know how bad it was, how long I had had it, what treatment I would need. My thoughts were immediately of my children and my husband. The sudden fear that my kids may grow up without a mother and my husband having to do it all by himself.
Gracie is my life saver, because if she didn’t wean herself when she had, I wouldn’t have found it with the chance of a complete cure. After the diagnosis, hand on heart I can say that we went through the two worst weeks of our lives while we went through the staging scans to find out how far the cancer had advanced. My breast cancer was stage 3, with a presence in my lymph nodes but no where else in my body. My right breast was virtually all pre cancerous with calcifications and a large invasive mass.
I’ve been through six brutal months of chemotherapy, followed by the first of three surgeries and five weeks of daily radiation. I will continue treatment every three weeks until the end of the year, and take medication for ten years to stave off the hormones that fed my breast cancer.
I had a complete response to chemotherapy and my prognosis is as good as you could ask for.
I have been lucky to have the support of my family and friends. I have also had tremendous support from my workplace at NT Major Events. I dropped everything I was doing and walked out of work once the GP clinic called. I was delivered care packages, cooked meals and constant well wishes from the crew I work with - they are a bunch of absolute legends. Their support has not ended. This year I am not the only person impacted by cancer in my workplace, unfortunately a number of workmates have lost loved ones and family to it. This year the NT Major Events team is doing Relay for Life, giving back to the Cancer Council to help raise funds to support people affected by cancer, fund research and prevention programs.
There are two reasons to telling you about my story, which I have been keeping close while I focussed on getting through the treatment required.
1. Help me raise some money for the Cancer Council. I will be doing Relay for Life with my work mates at NTMEC and family on August 6. Cancer is sh!t so let’s raise some money to make it less sh!t for people who go through it.
Click this link to donate, I’ll also make the kids do a few laps:
Secondly, and more importantly
2. Check your breasts, and check them regularly. Young people are not immune to breast cancer, and while it is hard to notice changes to your breasts during pregnancy and breast feeding - check them, check them again, and check them some more. If you notice any changes - lumps, redness, rashes, funny discharge, nipples looking sad, go to the GP and make sure you get a referral for an ultrasound as a minimum.
We’ve been very lucky to have some very kind and caring people in our corner - as well as some epic Medical Professionals. To all the people who reached out and touched bases with us - it has meant a lot.
There is a constant battle being waged by dedicated people to see the back of cancer. Let’s help them along!