My life changed forever when I found a lump while breastfeeding my four-month-old son. After an ultrasound and a biopsy, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I knew it would have a monumental effect on my future, but I didn’t yet know the extent to which it would impact my family.
When I tested for genetic markers, and it came back that my entire family and I had the BRCA1 gene mutation. It was no longer just my story – everyone was now involved.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are breast cancer susceptibility genes. Everyone has them, but some people inherit faults in the genes that can increase the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
The day I found out my family carries the mutation, I asked them to come around for dinner. I was so awkward and stifled; I thought I was about to ruin their lives. When I told them, they looked back at me in relief. They thought I had assembled them to let them know the cancer was terminal and I was dying.
Throughout diagnosis, treatment and recovery from breast cancer, the mechanics of life were difficult.
When going through treatment, I had a biopsy and lumpectomy. The lumpectomy aimed to preserve the breast as much as possible. They inject you with blue dye and then they can remove the lymph nodes. Results of lumpectomy found that my lymph nodes were clear, but the cancer was now invasive, high-grade cancer, and the likelihood that it was about to spread was severe.
Once again, my whole world was rocked, my inner demons were telling me that I was approaching defeat. But thanks to my family and beautiful children, I was able to put one foot in front of the other and keep going.
Next phase was chemotherapy. My chemo experience was a horrible four months long. Each dose and session it got worse and worse. I constantly felt sick, I lost weight and all my hair. I was bedridden.
When it came to support, I was lucky I had my friends and family rise to the challenge with me. My aunt even moved to Sydney, and became a surrogate to my son, as he was a baby and I was unable to care for him. Their bond flourished into something so beautiful, special and strong. There were moments where I was jealous but ultimately, I knew she was what he needed in that moment.
Looking back, I’m so grateful that she was there for us and the relationship they have now is one of true beauty.
The entire experience was riddled with emotions. It was when my sister Michelle was checked and came back clear that I grappled with the most intense feelings. First jealousy, then anger, which was unreasonable and ludicrous, as I’d never wish that upon anyone.