All photos courtesy of Joffre Street Productions
When Allison Snare found a marble-sized lump in her breast early last year, she knew exactly what it was. Her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer in her thirties, followed by ovarian cancer that claimed her life in her forties. This had made Allison diligent about checking for changes.
However, if it weren’t for her family history there’s a good chance Allison’s stage 3 breast cancer — the most aggressive form — wouldn’t have been diagnosed until much later.
“I had the ultrasound and all of [the doctors] said, ‘You’re so young — it can’t be cancer, we only get people in who are 40 and over, not 23,” Allison, now 24, recalls. “But I pushed to have a biopsy, because the same thing happened with my mum; doctors told her it was nothing and she pushed to have a lumpectomy and that’s when they came back to her with an apology.”
Although she was somewhat prepared to hear the words ‘breast cancer’ when her results came in, Allison, who was studying at uni and working at Coles in Launceston at the time, was still hit hard by her diagnosis.
“It just feels like the floor falls away from you and you can’t really see more than a day ahead of you,” she says. “I went home and my partner and a couple of my best friends came around and we just watched some Chris Rock comedy and sort of made light of the situation.”
Allison's endured several treatments since then: five months of chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy and only a few weeks ago, reconstructive surgery. As a young cancer patient, one of the most confronting parts of her experience was undergoing IVF and having to think about having children earlier than she'd expected.
"I think I was about eight days off my one year anniversary [with my boyfriend] when I was diagnosed," Allison explains. "I’m 24 now and they told me that I need to have all the kids I want before I’m 30. So my partner and I will be starting on that this year; it’s a big call so I've had to rearrange all my life plans."
Allison and her partner Dwayne, who is five years her junior, are ultimately hoping to have three or four children. Then, when Allison is 30, she'll likely have a full hysterectomy to remove her risk of ovarian cancer.
"My partner has been unbelievably amazing throughout this whole thing," she says. "He didn’t even hesitate about IVG and freezing the embryos or anything like that. But obviously he’s nervous and a little bit scared at the prospect of being a dad quite young, anyone would be."
Allison's course of treatment is finished for now, although it'll be five years before she can officially call herself a cancer survivor. Still, she wanted to find a way to bookmark the end of this scary, trying period of her life. That's where photographer Bruce Moyle came in.