Breast cancer at 22
I was 22 years old, I had just got full time employment and had just graduated from University. My first few months were hell as I did not come to the realisation that I actually had breast cancer at my age. I thought it was an old women's disease. How wrong I was! I had my lumpectomy and had one lymph node removed which came back clear. A week after my op I was told by my surgeon that he and the surgeon board at the hospital had all agreed that I should have a mastectomy for a better chance of long term survival and I would not have to have radiation most likely.
It took me ages to come to terms with having to lose a breast… I had lots of negative thoughts going around my head. My breast care nurse was very supportative with phone calls and chats over this time as was my close friend whom I had only told about me and my sickness.
"I kept my sickness very private and only close friends and work colleagues knew about me."
My specialist advised me to have chemo and IVF before even thinking about a mastectomy. I started IVF in August 2008. I now can say that I know what its feels like to go through the stress of not being able to fall pregnant naturally it was the hardest 2 week process ever. A few weeks after that I started chemo in September 2008. I did 6 rounds of chemo with the strongest level of chemo as recommended because of my age. My specialist said I was a hard breast cancer patient to recommend treatment for as there were not many stats on my age range of treatments. So I was recommended to do the strongest chemo sessions.
"During this time my best friend and her partner's band organised a concert for me."
"Pink Angel Concert" was held at the PCYC and they raised over $1000 for me and my work place raised over $600. I felt very special and knew that there was friends out there that were very supportive. It helped me heaps financially as I did not work much during chemo and I had no income benefits either. I finished chemo in December 2008. The cancer council helped me out with my wigs and helping with some bills as well. Once my hair started falling out I started stressing and it got to a stage where I would cry if to much came out.
"Within days I had shaved my head to reduce my stress and worrying."
In late Jan 2009 I went to see my surgeon and he asked what I wanted to do with my mastectomy. I decided to remove the one breast. I told my surgeons that I wanted the one surgery and didn’t want to wait 2 years for a reconstruction as recommended. With my age and pretty fit body my surgeons agreed that I was fit enough to go ahead with the mastectomy and tram flap reconstruction on 30th March 2009. Before the surgery I had put on a heap of weight from chemo. At this stage I was very depressed.
My plastic surgeon said to me that I needed to lose most of the weight I put on or he wouldn’t do the surgery. Just to add to my stress I was already facing. I had 2 months to lose the weight for the surgery.
"Which I did with determination and will power."
I spent 5 days in hospital and 2.5 months off work. Financially I have never struggled so much in my life like I did during this period. My mum moved to live with me from north queensland when I was diagnosed and stayed until Jan 2010 to look after me and help support me. It was hard with her on a pension but we pulled through.
Today I am 24 years old and it's been just over a year since I had my mastectomy and tram flap reconstruction. I now have been visiting the gym and working on losing some weight as my physio recommended that I start working my muscles again. I am back at work full time this year and a little more social again with my confidence improving.
In October 2009 (breast cancer awareness month) I did some fund raising for breast cancer at my workplace and also to promote breast cancer awareness. I ended up raising over $700.
I’m healthy and focusing on my career. I do worry about my future, whether it will come back, whether I will be able to have children naturally, whether I will ever be able to find someone to have children with and also if they will be able to except what I have gone through after having this experience.
Despite all the tears there was also heaps of happiness and I look forward to the future.