Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Kate’s story  | HerCanberra

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Kate’s story 

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No one ever thinks they will get cancer, let alone when pregnant. How could my body be trying to kill me, yet on the other hand growing life?

It was October 2018 when I discovered a grape-sized lump. I was a 33-year-old professional, my husband and I were raising our 15-month-old daughter and I was 21 weeks pregnant with our second child.

Life was busy but happy, and we couldn’t wait for our family of three to become four.

I guess with all that going on, I didn’t take much notice of my breasts. Doctors weren’t overly concerned, saying that it was likely just a blocked duct or benign lump, both of which can be very common during pregnancy. However, just to be sure, I was sent off to have an ultrasound and biopsy.

Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next; “I am so sorry, you have breast cancer”.

We were devastated. At a time when we were awaiting the birth of our second child, we were now forced to confront cancer.

We later found out it was triple negative—a particularly aggressive type. In that moment our whole world changed. I was not only scared for my own life, but that of my baby.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), in 2019 it is estimated that 19,535 Australians will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Approximately 21 per cent of new cases of breast cancer are in women under the age of 50.

Although the incidence of breast cancer during pregnancy is rare, it can happen. Breast cancer can be harder to detect in pregnant women, because the breasts become large and change texture. It can also be hard to tell the difference between normal changes related to pregnancy and breast cancer.

Thankfully, the doctors advised I could have treatment whilst pregnant. Because my cancer was not driven by hormones, it wasn’t affected by the pregnancy itself. And, after the first trimester, the particular chemotherapy agents I would be having were safe and wouldn’t affect the baby.

Chemotherapy was the hardest thing I have ever endured. It made me sick and exhausted, and I was in and out of hospital. I was already tired from the pregnancy and treatment, but I also had a super active toddler to chase after. She was too little to understand that I was unwell and needed to rest.

On 6 February 2019, our second daughter arrived safely into the world. We were so relieved she was healthy, but I still had a fight ahead of me.

One week after she was born I recommenced my final eight rounds of chemotherapy. I have also since undergone a double mastectomy and reconstruction, 28 rounds of daily radiation and in September started my ‘last line of defence’—six months of oral chemotherapy.

Finding breast cancer early provides the best way of surviving the disease. Although I felt like cancer robbed me of the joy of my pregnancy, I know how lucky I am we caught the cancer when we did.

The best way for young women to find breast cancer early is through breast awareness and conducting regular checks on themselves. If you are familiar with the way your breasts look and feel, it will make it easier to notice if any changes occur.

If sharing my story does one thing, I hope it encourages women to take some time this month to find out what they need to know about breast awareness and share this important information with their family, friends and colleagues.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which provides an opportunity for us all to focus on breast cancer and its impact on those affected by the disease in our community.

You can find more information at canceraustralia.gov.au/healthy-living/campaigns-events/breast-cancer-awareness-month.

Photography: Jess Lee Photography 

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