One of the biggest reasons that I share my story is to raise awareness. Before I was diagnosed I was uninformed and quite naive when it came to breast cancer. It has taught me so many things, one of them being that cancer does not discriminate. You can't be too young, too kind or too "healthy" to get cancer. No one is excluded from its awful sneaky ways and the unwanted hold over your body.
It has now been just over two years since I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer and only now am I starting to feel more like a version of myself again. The constant fearful voice in my mind that was a constant reel, is finally starting to get quieter and less often.
For a cancer survivor, once treatment is over, that isn't the end of the trauma. For everyone else, life goes back to normal, the stress is over and the worry gone. But for us, the survivors, the scars are still there, both physically and mentally. Slowly coming out of the fight mode my body was in for over 1 year, brings with it other emotional scars that slowly appear.
My treatment finished in January of this year. Over 13 months of cancer treatment including 5 months of IV chemo (fortnightly for 2 months and weekly for 3 months), 28 days of radiation, 6 months of tablet chemo and 5 surgeries with potentially more to come. Wow it was a full on ride! My mind was a chemo, foggy mess!
After finishing my IV chemo and healing from my double mastectomy, I began the next phase of treatment which was radiation. This was daily for 28 days (not including the weekends, so 5 weekly). This was ok. I couldn't feel it or see it. In my mind, before the first visit, I was visualising red laser beams piercing my skin. Hahaha, no it wasn't that dramatic at all. I was very on-top of my daily moisturiser, and eating protein every meal, to help with the healing. Towards the end of the rounds I was quite tender and red (like a very severe sunburn), but it was manageable. My tissue expander on the left side (where the radiation was done) got harder and tighter. I knew this would happen from the radiation. They already were hard as rocks, but now my left side was like solid concrete!
Once the radiation was complete and I was healed from that, we started talking about implants and fat transfers. I had a few fat transfers from my love handles and stomach and then my expanders were swapped for implants. The left side is still a little tight and firmer, but overall they are so much softer!! I am quite used to not having nipples now as weird as that sounds! But this may be something I look at later. New nipples or perhaps some fun tattoos!
Before being diagnosed I had barely been to hospital. No broken bones, no bad accidents. Over the past 2 years I definitely became a regular in the hospital space and I hold a special place in my heart for the amazing nurses and doctors we have in our country - we truly are so lucky!
Then it was onto the last stage - the chemo tablets. These were a twice daily tablet for 6 months - with a break every two weeks. These had no side effects like the IV version. But I still had a low immune system which had me in emergency once for a fever over 38-degrees.
It's a weird feeling finishing cancer treatment. You would think that I would have been over the moon with excitement, but in fact it was quite a scary place. I no-longer had the safety net of drugs going through my veins and body to fight a disease that was trying to kill me. I was now on my own, my body being the only defence, with the fear in my mind of "was this enough to save me?".
I now sit with my body in amazement of surviving, alongside my beautiful daughter that is now 3.5 years young. Lenny helped me to discover this cancer that tried to take hold over me. I look back and it makes me sad that she was only 16 months old when I was diagnosed. We missed so much during those times. CCC (covid, cancer, child raising) - is not something you want to experience together, all at once!
Over the past two years I have crossed paths with some amazing women. Mostly young mums, like me, trying to make their way through this unchartered journey that so many have been on before us. A journey that no-one wants to ever be on. A powerful team of women that have the same fears, the same precious life that means so much, that feels so vulnerable and is worth the fight.
Above I mentioned I am starting to feel more like a version of myself again. A version that is still me but a very different me. I am different physically, but I am even more different mentally. I feel stronger but more emotional. I feel braver but more vulnerable. So many feelings and values that have been brought to light and become more important for me and the life I want to live!
Some of the things I have discovered along my journey that are pathing my way:
- Don't work for dickheads. If people undervalue you and the stage you are at in your life and aren't willing to work with you, they don't bloody deserve you. Everyone deserves respect and a job isn't worth it if you don't get it!
- Do what you love, and I mean really do what you love! What makes your heart sing and your eyes sparkle? Hold onto that and it will make you thrive!
- Appreciate the little things. It is the little things that matter and not the materialistic things. Morning cuddles, the sun on your face and the giggles from your babies.
- Love you for you! Life is for living and your body is amazing, so be a little kinder to yourself. With nips and without!
Thank you for reading this, I know it was long-winded, but I wanted to share the second half of my journey with you, and hopefully remind you all to check those boobies and advocate for yourself, for your family and most importantly for your health!