CELEBRATE COURAGE, CELEBRATE BEAUTY
Today in NZ 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
This year 600+ will likely die.
Yet 30% of eligible women aren’t enrolled in free screening and 60% of young women don’t know the signs beyond a lump do you?
"I would like to introduce you to my beautiful courageous friend Gemma Delia. In August 2017 Gemma told me she was going through Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer, age 31. Up until then this was something she kept very private but she chose to share her story to encourage other women and young women especially, to CHECK FOR CHANGES, to get to know your body and to go visit your GP if you feel something is not right. Gemma passed away suddenly on the 4th September 2018. We will keep sharing her story in the hope of saving a life".
As soon as I returned from Vietnam I went 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 till the following week and 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 he did a biopsy on me that day. I had tissue taken from my breast and arm pit 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 arm pit. In the space of 10 minutes my world was turned upside down.
I found out that I had stage 3 HER2 positive breast cancer and I was curable. I was lucky I 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 3 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 2 years with only one boob. After the 3rd session of my first chemo produced mimminal results my oncologist changed me to a harsher, more intense chemo and I had 4 session every 2 weeks instead of every 3 weeks. I was being hit with the highest dose possible and it worked. After 3 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 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 2 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 least 3 weeks radiation, 6 months oral chemo and herceptin infusions every 3 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’s with breast cancer.