“In September 2013, I went to the doctor for a case of mastitis. I was not breastfeeding at the time as my two daughters, Livia and Teagan, were 8 and 5 years old.
The doctor checked my breasts and felt a couple of lumps. I had always had dense and lumpy breasts so I thought nothing of it. I had a mammogram and an ultrasound; they discovered that I had two lumps of 15mm and 25mm. They also discovered three smaller satellite lesions. Biopsies revealed that I had invasive ductal carcinoma, the most common type of breast cancer.
It took me two weeks to tell my girls. I remember sitting them down on the bed and telling them that mummy had lumps in her boob and the only way the doctors could make mummy better was to remove her breast.
I tried hard not to cry but I couldn’t help myself.
We all sat there crying together for a little while. I reassured them that I was going to be OK. I didn’t use the word cancer as I didn’t know if they associated this word with death.
Due to the number of lumps the surgeon decided that it was better to have a mastectomy. Although this was a very traumatic time and I was very scared I just wanted the cancer gone and I hated waiting two weeks to have the surgery.
The cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes but one of the tumours was close to my chest wall so the team decided that I would benefit from ‘mop-up chemo’.
I was petrified of chemo and endured six cycles of it. My girls came with me to the first chemo and stayed for a little while. I think they wanted to see for themselves what it was all about.
For me the first six to 10 days after each chemo session were the worst. It was as bad as I had heard; the tiredness and the bone and muscle pain are something I never want to endure again.
I was lucky to have a supportive husband and my mum and mother-in-law took turns at looking after me after each session. I was usually out for about a week after with some side effects.
When I feel myself taking my health for granted I think back to those days. March 5, 2014 was one of the best days of my life when I finished chemo. After that, I had 25 rounds of radiation. Although my skin became extremely red, itchy and infected towards the end it was a walk in the park compared to chemo.
My girls came with me through choice for some of my appointments to get my PIC line cleaned or when they withdrew blood from it. They even witnessed me injecting myself with the neulasta injection after each chemo. They were fascinated and curious about it all. If they saw me coping with it then in their minds it was all OK. They didn’t see the dark times. I always kept that hidden from them.
Due to my cancer being hormone positive I decided after many months contemplating the pros and cons to have my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed.
Being 38 and in menopause isn’t fun, but neither is cancer. I do not regret the decision and am thankful that I had the opportunity to have my children before cancer struck.
The biggest change in my life was accepting that it was happening to me in the first place and the fact that some of the treatment didn’t allow me to have the same energy levels as before.
I have always been an active person and not being able to maintain those energy levels was hard to deal with. Chemo especially made it difficult for me to continue with certain activities that required a lot of energy. I try to keep this memory in my mind so I don’t take my health for granted.
As I am going through the public system I need to be cancer free for two years before I can have my reconstruction. One year down and one to go! I have decided that when the time comes I will have a prophylactic mastectomy on the healthy breast at the same time. Although I know my chances are only slightly increased for a new cancer to form in the healthy breast, it is a chance I don’t want to risk. I want to be here to see my girls grow up and it makes me very emotional to think of them growing up without their mother.
One year on, I am back at work as a teacher two days a week and although I was fairly fit and healthy before this diagnosis I am a lot more aware now of what I put into my body and I make sure I exercise at least five days a week.
Breast cancer has made me realise that it can strike any woman at any time, even when you have done all the things to help prevent it. I am passionate about spreading the message of self examination and professional examination of your breasts.
I really want researchers to find out why breast cancer is striking down so many women from all walks of life. I have two daughters and three sisters to think about, and don’t want them to go through what I have.
I want to help find a cure for this insidious disease. The more money we can raise to help find a cure, the better.
I love participating in the Mother’s Day Classic because I feel like I’m doing something to help this cause.”
– by Alanna Oldfield, a 38-year-old mum from the Gold Coast
Alanna has shared her story to encourage you to register for the Mother’s Day Classic event which raises funds for breast cancer research. To participate, donate or find your nearest Mother’s Day Classic event go to www.mothersdayclassic.com.au.