health

'After giving birth, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My partner left me 3 months later.'

Sometimes, there’s a moment in a relationship you just can’t move beyond, even if you want to. For Perth’s Camille*, that moment came when her partner, who had a bad back, found out she had breast cancer.

“He goes, ‘Well, at least it’s only breast cancer. My back will be effed forever,’” she remembers.

Talk to your family about their health history. Post continues after video. 

Camille was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2016, the day after her second child was born via caesarean. She and her partner had tried IVF for three years, and then, after they’d given up, she’d fallen pregnant naturally – twice.

“Unfortunately, our relationship was already deteriorating through the stress of IVF,” she explains. “It’s very difficult financially, it’s very difficult emotionally – the ups and downs – and there’s the physical toll it takes.”

When Camille and her partner discovered she was pregnant with their first child, they were both in disbelief.

“We both had wanted children so badly,” she says. “I wanted to try to make it work, despite all of our difficulties, and the fact it was a very toxic environment. I was just so wound up and stressed all the time with him.”

While breastfeeding her baby girl, Camille noticed a lump in her breast, but assumed it was mastitis. Ten months later, just a week before giving birth to her son via caesarean, she found another lump under her arm, and mentioned it to her midwife. She had tests done, but forgot about them, with all the drama of the birth.

“I had actually driven myself to the hospital to have a caesarean because my partner had had a huge argument with me,” she remembers.

Then came the diagnosis, and the comment from her partner about it being “only” breast cancer.

“It’s always stuck with me. That one thing. I never could get past that thing that he said.”

Three weeks after her diagnosis of stage 3B breast cancer, Camille began chemo.

“He came to my first chemo and he was there for an hour and then he left. I think it was just a bit much for him. After that he got a lot of extra shifts at work and wasn’t at the house very much.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Three months after the diagnosis, the relationship was over.

“He just walked out on me one night. I was on my knees on the floor holding the newborn and the one-year-old was in the high chair screaming because she didn’t want to eat her dinner. I was so crippled with pain from the drugs I was on. I was begging him: ‘Please, don’t go. Just stay here and help me. I don’t care if you hate me, just stay here and help me.’ And he just left. That was it.”

Camille was devastated.

“I was on so many drugs and the moments of lucidity I had would be absolute panic. I ended up being put on medication for anxiety because I was just going, ‘Oh my God, what’s going to happen to my life? What’s going to happen to my kids? Am I going to die?’”

Fortunately, Camille had a supportive group of family and friends who helped her through the chemo, the double mastectomy, the radiation and all the follow-up surgeries.

“I had an ongoing cycle of people delivering food,” she says. “They came around to help me with bathtime with the kids. It was just amazing. There were even people I met online who said, ‘Oh, my mum and I are going to be at the hospital at this time. We can help look after your baby while you’re in your appointment.’”

Eventually, Camille was living in a new home and starting to feel a bit healthier. Keen to meet new people, she joined an online dinner club and met a man she had a lot in common with.

“I was very upfront. I said, ‘Look, I’m a single mum, I have two kids under two, I have no boobs, I have a very difficult health situation, I’m not looking for a boyfriend.’”

And yet, that’s what she got.

“He was that person I needed so many years ago but he’s brought so much to my life now. He’d never had kids before, but he’d dive right in there. He’d look after them when I went to the hospital. He bought me things to make my life easier. He was always thinking, ‘What can I do to help you?’ He didn’t need to be here for me but he was.”

Last month, Camille and her new partner eloped.

“I’ve never known this level of happy,” she says. “I’m very lucky.”

Camille is a model and ambassador for So Brave, Australia’s young women’s breast cancer charity. So Brave has just started up a Facebook group, Connect, where women diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 40 can support each other.

“It would have been helpful to have been part of a group like Connect,” Camille says.

You can join the Connect Facebook page by So Brave here

*The name has been changed for privacy reasons. 

00:00 / ???