“I’m a 44-year-old mum, happily married with two amazing boys aged 12 and 13. I worked as an office administrator for an engineering company with a wonderful boss who had been supportive and understanding during my journey with cancer. Unfortunately, I had to give up my position due to the symptoms of chemotherapy.
I enjoy picking up a good book to read, seeing a good movie, getting outdoors especially the beach and spending time with my family. I am passionate about singing and I’m a member of a reggae band as the lead singer with 7 other musicians. I have always loved singing, writing songs and performing – I find it’s a great way to let my hair down and express myself.
In May, 2015 I found a hard lump in my left breast which at the time didn’t concern me. I did the usual check-ups, from a mammogram to a needle biopsy and then an ultrasound. The tests came back fine and I thought I was in the clear until the lump began to grow in size.
I went back to my doctor and she advised me to get a second needle biopsy and referred me to a breast surgeon. Once again the needle biopsy came back clear. My surgeon was concerned even though the tests didn’t show anything and advised me to get a lumpectomy. It took a good three weeks before I decided to go ahead with the surgery still thinking in my mind it was all OK. I went through with the lumpectomy and waited for the results.
Two weeks later I took a call from my surgeon asking me to come see her that afternoon. I somehow knew it was bad news because she was supposed to be on holidays and she told me to bring my husband. We arrived at the clinic and my surgeon called me into her office.
I prepared myself for the bad news. The doctor wasted no time: “I’m so sorry you have HER2 positive breast cancer and you need to book in for a mastectomy on your left breast along with an ancillary clearance. We also need to organise for you to see an oncologist and start you on chemotherapy, radiotherapy and eventually hormone treatment.” I just blanked out!
I tried to hold back the tears, and I don’t really know why I held the tears back in front of the surgeon, maybe I just wanted to show I was strong, but it wasn’t until I walked out of her office the tears began to fall, and my husband cried with me. I was in disbelief; how could I have breast cancer when no one else in my family had ever had it? I kept going over reasons in my head: Maybe it was my diet? Maybe I wasn’t active enough when I was younger? Was it from too much stress? How can this be?
It took me a good two weeks for it to sink in that I had breast cancer and it’s been an emotional roller-coaster since. The hardest thing is not knowing how you will react to the chemotherapy and the side-effects. You are not the same person you were before diagnosis. I used to be very active, I exercised just about every day, I was always on the go keeping my family and the house organised and I used to love my food (eating that is). It puts your life on hold. I have no appetite, I no longer work which has had a financial impact on my family and not to mention all the side effects of chemo: fatigue, nausea, dizzy spells, mood swings, no hair and the list goes on!
In saying that not all days are bad and I still have a good laugh every now and then and I have a great support network with my family, friends and my church. I try and make the most of the good days and I appreciate life a whole lot more. I get to spend a lot more quality time with my family and I let go of the little things that used to annoy me. I have a new found respect for other cancer patients and what they go through. Now I just try to take each day one day at a time and try to help others I come across whether they’re going through cancer or just doing it tough in any way.
I was feeling pretty down after I lost my hair and I thought I would enjoy going along to the Look Good Feel Better workshop. It offered me some tips on make-up and a good opportunity to meet others going through the same journey. The best thing about it was the simple things I could do to feel better about myself – changing the way I see make-up, different scarf tying techniques and trying on wigs – all in a positive environment. Of course I would recommend anyone else going through cancer treatment to book themselves into a workshop.”