In September 2017, I was getting ready to pack up our lives and move my family to New York, following an opportunity to take my career overseas with my company Avon.
It made sense for me to leave ahead of the family, setting up our new life with an apartment, schooling and meeting my new colleagues. I was beyond excited.
Within two weeks of arriving in New York, I noticed my right breast had started to become sore, similar to what a breastfeeding mum might describe as a blocked duct.
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I’d had some trouble with cysts in my breasts in the past and was no stranger to annual check-ups. But it had never led to anything sinister, nor did breast cancer run in my family.
Over the next couple of weeks, I took photos of the changes in my breasts. They were rock hard, red and sore to touch, all the way around to my armpit. But to my knowledge, there was still no lump.
My symptoms continued to worsen and I was more concerned as each day passed, so I decided to try and make an appointment. I did some research and spoke to the team at a local medical centre. But being a new resident and still sorting out healthcare arrangements, I was told it would be six weeks until I could see a specialist.
Pleading with the team, I informed them of the changes I’d documented in my breasts in just two weeks, and how concerned I was. Thankfully, I was seen that week.
Whilst the specialist suspected inflammatory breast cancer, I wasn’t convinced. I thought it was an infection at best. This wasn’t the case… the specialist found a lump under my arm and ordered a biopsy straight away. Two days later, I was informed the diagnosis was positive, and not only that, it was critical, at stage 3-4.
My world was in a complete spin. I was hearing the word cancer; I was on my own in an unfamiliar city and I’d never even heard of inflammatory breast cancer. I even had to wait for the time difference to call my husband and share the news.
I was told by the specialist to either leave New York within 48 hours, return home immediately and arrange an appointment on my arrival or start treatment the following day in New York without my family.
And so, the ‘journey’ began. Within two weeks of a positive diagnosis I started six months of chemotherapy. I’m told I stood outside the treatment centre for 10 minutes staring at the door before I walked in, but I have no recollection of that at all. I was in shock. It had only been a matter of days and here I was, starting chemotherapy.