Two years ago I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.
I found a lump in my breast in June 2006, whilst doing a self examination. I had just turned 37, life was great and I had no idea how my world was about to turn upside down. A friend had been diagnosed only three years before with breast cancer so it was an awakening call and I began doing self examinations every few weeks. Ironically, at the time when I found my lump I was involved in an annual breast cancer fundraiser run by our ambassador, Ngaire Bartlam. I was on the design team for Karen’s Kupboard and we were running an online Breast Cancer auction to help raise money for Ngaire.
The tests began, first a mammogram, followed by a core biopsy under ultrasound. Waiting for results was probably the hardest thing throughout my journey. Once diagnosed it was like a weight had been lifted and I was keen to move forward and have the surgery and begin treatment. My diagnosis was Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Grade 3. My growth was 1.7cm in size and was considered quite aggressive. IDC is a cancer that begins in the milk duct but grows into the surrounding normal tissue inside the breast. This is the most common kind of breast cancer. Grade 3 cancer cells have irregular shapes, stick together and are very fast growing. This is the fastest growing grade. My oestrogen and progesterone receptors were both negative and my HER2 was negative (+1). This means that my cancer wasn't a hormonal cancer which meant after my initial treatment finished that was all they could do. I wouldn't be able to take ongoing medication to keep the cancer at bay.
My surgery was booked in and my surgeon decided on a lumpectomy rather than removing my breast and a sentinal node biopsy. The node biopsy failed and rather than taking 2 nodes they took 8 lymph nodes due to the first two being in poor condition leading them to believe they were cancerous.Waiting for the results from my surgery was even harder than waiting for my intial diagnosis. I prayed that I would have clear margins and no cancer in my nodes. Four days after my surgery I received my results.
My tumour was an infiltrating duct carcinoma that had medullary features (medullary tumours account for less than 5% of breast cancers). I had clear margins (the tissue around the tumour) and clear lymph nodes. A big sigh of relief. A few months after my treatment finished my oncologist told me I would have been lucky to have lived 6 to 12 months if I hadn't found my lump.
Surgery took a while to recover from, treatment was tough but doable. I had 6 sessions of intense FEC 100 chemotherapy (over 16 weeks, every 3 weeks) and five weeks of radiotherapy. I became great friends with another lady, Helen during chemo. We had exactly the same treatment on the same day. We spent the hours laughing our way through treatment. I lost my hair but never my sense of humour. It never worried me losing my hair. I was never much of a girly girl.
During my journey I read every thing I could get my hands on. I recorded my journey on my blog http://dawnstan.blogspot.com/2006_06_01_archive.html One thing I found whilst going through treatment etc was that there weren't many real life stories out there. I found lots of websites with facts and figures but I wanted to read about real people. By recording my story I hope it will help someone else travelling along the same road.There are some fantastic websites within Australia and overseas. I received a journey kit from the breast cancer network
This was a wealth of information and included a diary to record all my appointments and treatments in.
Once diagnosed I was concerned about how my girls would cope with me losing my hair, going through treatment and being able to answer their questions etc I rang the cancer council and had a chat to a lovely lady who sent me a variety of brochures and books all written in a way that kids could understand what was going on. One of the books was a colouring book written by a child. It explained everything about my treatment and what would happen. It also stated that you couldn't catch cancer. This was one thing Leah worried about.
I became a member of an US website called Breast Cancer Org http://community.breastcancer.org/
The website has a discussion board and I joined a group of ladies who were all beginning chemotherapy during the month of August. It was fantastic to chat to other ladies who were all going through chemo at the same time. It was on this forum I met my good friend Valerie. Leah and Valerie's daughter Kennedy became pen friends and it was really great to see them write letters to each other and draw picture of their bald mothers.Leah's drawings were quite funny as she would draw my hair or lack of it exactly as it was.
Throughout my journey I lived with the motto, one day at a time. There are no hurdles too big to deal with when you take it one day at a time.
Here are some more websites I found helpful
Having breast cancer has changed my life for the better. Hard to believe that having cancer can be a good thing. I have come away with so many positives. It has made me a stronger person.
This poem by Linda Nielsen sums up my feelings exactly.
(© By Linda Nielsen)
I was given a gift,wrapped shabbily, it was non-returnable,non-refundable!Reluctantly I accepted it.
In it I found courage I never knew existed and a patience far beyond anything ever experienced.
I was given the ability to trust a stranger with that most dear to me,
and an endurance for the unknown.
I was given unconditional love of family and friends,always there, never stopping, never faltering.
I was given many prayers from far and wide,and the warmth of knowing I am truly cared about.
I was given a fond farewell of my modesty and vanity, and the acceptance and love of an imperfect body.
I was given a strong shoulder to lean onwhen that shoulder had once grown distant,and laughter and good times, more special than ever before.
I was given many new friends, wonderful, courageous women I am so very proud to know.
I was given warm sunshine and beautiful green grass,blue skies, and sparkling city lights.
I was given things to see,that once before were ignored.
I was given the chance to wake up,instead of sleepwalking through life.
I was given every glorious day to enjoy,every month to savor, every year to rejoice.
I was given the gift of life,I was given breast cancer.
I hope everyone can join us on Thursday night for our girls night in. If you haven't already donated you can do so by clicking on the donation button on the left hand side of the blog. Every donation whether large or small helps.
Check those boobs ladies. Early detection saves your life. Cancer sucks.