I was just a happy, busy mother in 2010, looking after my three-year-old daughter, Brianna, and toddler son, Luke. I had breastfed my daughter until 15 months and my son still enjoyed being breastfed, especially at night. Life was good.
I had overcome mastitis while breastfeeding Brianna and Luke. After noticing some lumps in my left breast, I went to my General Practitioner (GP) who referred me for an ultrasound. The sonographer could not see anything sinister and the report came back as calcified milk deposits. I happily continued breastfeeding but was referred for two more ultrasounds, all of which reported the same result.
My GP remained concerned and referred me to a surgeon for biopsies of the lumps. When I returned to his practice in September 2010, with 13-month-old Luke in his pram, Brianna and my mum with me, the last thing on our minds was breast cancer. At 37-years-old, and with two young dependent children, I faced the fear of death.
The surgeon advised that I stop breastfeeding immediately and have surgery in two weeks’ time to remove the affected breast. This meant I had to be separated from Luke as he demanded milk from me. We were both traumatised. Mum had the task of introducing a bottle to Luke.
He rejected it each time it was offered. In the end, desperation made her add a small amount of flavouring, which finally resulted in him taking it.
After numerous nerve-wracking tests, no cancer was detected anywhere else. My body-changing operation came and went well but seeing my image in the mirror after my bandages were removed was hard to deal with. I was cut to the bone and my chest was covered with staples. When my wound was healed, I started wearing a special bra, which could hold a prosthesis.
I had a very aggressive, unusual cancer, which was stage three. There was not one tumour but numerous ones within the breast. They were successfully removed with a margin around them, however, one was only a few millimetres short of going through my chest wall. The lymph nodes removed from under my left arm were clear of cancer. At the time, I was naively unaware that this was such a positive result, but when I told my brother he was over the moon.