When I first felt that lump in my right breast, I never thought could be cancer. Upon seeing my GP immediately her first response was ‘It’s just a cyst, I have a lot of patients who have lumps worse than this’. Thinking back now I cannot believe I let her get away with this diagnosis. When I was telling my closest cousin about it, she demanded I go and get a second opinion. Thinking back now I am so grateful for her as she ensured I that I make another appointment. That second appointment was the beginning of my breast cancer journey.
At the time of my diagnosis my husband and I had only been married for 2 short months. The day of my initial ultrasound to have the lump checked I remember Hubby insisting that he come with me and me responding with a ‘Don’t be silly, it’ll be nothing’. The diagnosis to follow was certainly not nothing. I seriously was not too concerned at the beginning that it could be cancer. I wasn’t even in the ultrasound room but 5 minutes when the doctor said to me ‘You have some type of Cancer’ That word ‘CANCER’ created a fog in my head as I was thinking to myself ‘What do you mean some type of cancer, how many types of breast cancer is there?’. He told me he was sending results over to my GP and that she would call me immediately. Well that was alarming. As I walked to my car with the news circling my head, I called hubby and complete broke down, ‘Babe it’s cancer’. I made it home and went straight to my husband’s warm embrace as we both cried uncontrollably. My doctor called me within 30 minutes, she could hear how upset, nervous, and distraught I was. She said to me ‘Connie, I usually don’t do this over the phone, but you have breast cancer’. I immediately put her on speaker phone, I was numb and as the shock began to set in, I don’t recall anything else she said. Hubby began to write down her instructions, we were advised to head down to the Freemasons Hospital the following day where we would meet with a breast surgeon. I was told I would undergo a mammogram and biopsy to determine what stage my cancer was at.
My son was with his biological father at the time and was due to return home to us that night, my husband called my ex to explain the situation and he agreed to have our Son stay with him as long as we needed. Telling a 16-year-old boy that his mother has cancer wasn’t something I ever wanted my boy to deal with. My son Matthew has always been good at hiding his emotions and when we first saw him after our news, he did just that, he simply said, ‘group hug’ and retreated to his bedroom.
After completing my mammogram, we were told to wait a few hours before having the biopsy done so my husband and I went downstairs and outside for a walk. We sat on a park bench at the local park watching the birds and people walking by. We didn’t say much, I think we both were still in a state of shock, he just held me as we watched the world go about its day.
Sitting in the surgeon’s room it was explained to us that my breast cancer was a grade one cancer that was highly hormonal. This was not good news as the few months before I was diagnosed my husband and I had begun our IVF journey. My husband had no children of his own, so it was our dream once we were married to have a child together. Unfortunately, the hormones administered during an IVF cycle were in fact feeding my cancer. During our third round IVF we did in fact fall pregnant, but I miscarried, this loss still affects me even to this day. Why can life be so unfair, what did we do to deserve this? All I wanted was to give my amazing husband was the chance to be a Father the precious gift of a child but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. He would have been a great Dad as he has shown me time and time again by being an awesome stepdad to my son and great role model to my niece and nephew. To this day I tell him to go and find someone who can bear him a child my feelings of guilt sometimes get the better of me, but anyone who knows him knows he is such a loyal and loving man that he would never do such a thing. His love for me is unconditional.
After my full diagnosis I was assigned a breast care nurse, mine was a beautiful woman named Kerry. She was always there to answer all my questions and showed me great kindness and care.
The 16th of March 2018 was my surgery day I was having a procedure called a lumpectomy done to remove the cancer as well removed my lymph nodes. The removal of my lymph nodes would allow the doctors to test them and diagnose if the cancer had in fact spread to other parts of my body. I was calm the day of my surgery as I had my hubby and brother there for support. The surgery took quite a while which worried my husband immensely, we spent many nights talking about his fear of losing me. All went well with the surgery; my doctor removed the lump and took out two lymph nodes one of which one contained cancer. This new find then upgraded my breast cancer status to stage two. To this day I still look like a shark has taken a bite out of my breast but, I’m here and I am alive so who cares. My lovely oncologist Dr Richard Deboer (whom I highly recommend) suggested that I undergo radiotherapy and that chemotherapy was not required. I would have this therapy administered for 6 weeks on a daily basis. Every day for six weeks we attended the hospital and every day I would put on a gown, lay on the bed with my arms up for 10 minutes. The therapy was a bit like laying in the sun, I would play my music and use it as my down time. The radiation made me extremely tired and I always needed a good rest when I would return home.
I am currently on a medication called Tamoxifen, I will need to take this for at least 10 years to hopefully deter my cancer coming back again. I also require the much-dreaded needle called Zolodex, this puts my body into a pre-menopausal state and I take this once a month. It has stopped my periods, but I still get all the menstrual symptoms. Gabapentin is another medication I take and this one is for nerve pain. I suffer from lots of numbness, pins-and-needles, especially on the side of my body that endured the surgery. Gabapentin helps eliminate this nerve pain and helps me to sleep. Being on a few different very string medications causes a lot of side effects like feeling my bones a very brittle, I have had to endure a lot of poking and prodding over the last two years but am grateful at the care and constant monitoring I receive.
If you do not feel that something is right, get checked and know your body. I live each day terrified that my cancer will come back and the ‘what if’ I did not get that second opinion. I am in a new job now which I really enjoy, I am socializing more and making some amazing new friends. I have been given the opportunity to tell my story to make everyone aware that cancer does not discriminate, I have no family history of breast cancer and I am young. Be safe Ladies and check your boobies.