"There are two dates in my life I will never forget,16th April 2017 - I was in Vietnam getting ready to go to a friend’s wedding. While in the shower I felt a lump in my right breast. I instantly freaked out, my first thought was breast cancer. I still had 10 days left of my holiday and tried to enjoy it as best I could.
As soon as I returned from Vietnam I went straight to the hospital to have the lump checked out, the doctor couldn’t diagnose what it was and suggested I have an ultrasound. I wasn’t able to get an appointment until the following week, by that time I was having unexplained pain in my right breast and the lump had started to invert my nipple. When I saw the specialist he was worried enough about my symptoms that he did a biopsy on me that day, I had tissue taken from my breast and armpit and a metal marker put into my breast. A mammogram was done to photograph where the marker was - my mammogram came back clear.
4th May 2017 - The day my life changed forever. I returned to the specialists with my dad to get the results. The biopsy showed cancer. Not only in my breast but also in my lymph nodes in my armpit. In the space of 10 minutes, my world was turned upside down.
At 30 years old. I had breast cancer!!!!!
From that day on my new normal became hospitals, specialists, tests and cancer.
I found out that I had Stage 3 HER2 positive breast cancer and I was curable. I was lucky that I had found the lump when I did and got it seen to so quickly. If I had left it even a little longer my prognosis could have been a lot different. My treatment plan was discussed, 16 weeks of chemotherapy to shrink the tumour, right-side mastectomy and node clearance and radiation. Seemed simple at the time - it turned out not to be simple at all.
My tumour didn’t react to the first three sessions of chemo and my cancer also became inflammatory which affects the skin and is a very aggressive form of cancer. This also meant that I couldn’t have immediate reconstruction, I would be looking about two years with only one boob.
After the third session of my first chemo produced minimal results, my oncologist changed me to a harsher, more intense chemo - I had four sessions every two weeks, instead of every three weeks. I was being hit with the highest dose possible and it worked, after three sessions of this intense chemo the tumour had shrunk to almost half its original size (it was 8.5cm by 8.5cm when I had my first dose of chemo).
On the 23rd August, the day after my 31st birthday, I saw my breast surgeon (the same specialist who had diagnosed me) and heard the words I thought would never come; the tumour was small enough for surgery and on the 14th September my unwanted companion would be gone. I never thought I would be so happy at the prospect of losing a body part but I was over the moon. I just had to get through the last chemo - and I did.
As I sit here and write this I am two weeks post my mastectomy. I have seen my oncologist and the surgery went perfect, they got all the cancer. I still need more treatment - I am looking at at least three weeks radiation, six months oral chemo and Herceptin infusions every three weeks for a year, but the hardest part is over and I have nearly won the battle.
This journey hasn’t been easy. I have lost my hair, lost my boob and at times lost my faith but from the start, I knew that this wouldn’t beat me. I wouldn’t be beaten. I used humour to get through and found support through a Facebook group for young women with breast cancer.
Cancer is shit, the treatment is shit but it’s not a death sentence anymore.
If found earlier enough, it can be cured, you can come out the other side stronger and continue to live an amazing life.
You have to check your breasts regularly and know your body and the symptoms of breast cancer because a lump isn’t the only symptom. If you find anything you are unsure of please get it checked out. It could save your life."
- Gemma Delia