The Day My Life Fell Apart At 35
One in eight Australian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the time they turn 85. It is estimated that in 2020, 17,210 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women. Current Statistics from Breast Cancer Australia.
I am sure most of you have been affected yourself by cancer in some form, and know or lost loved ones through cancer. For the past 7 years I have been involved with supporting the breast cancer foundation in many ways, as it is something personal to me, and I am sure to most women.
My dear friend and work colleague, beautiful Brooke Roberts, went through absolute hell in 2016 with breast cancer. Never in my life have I felt so helpless, watching Brooke lose her hair, (including eyelashes and eyebrows), finger and toe nails, and so much weight. Brooke is petite at the best of times. She went so quickly from being super healthy to extremely sick very fast, as the lump she found on New Years Eve was large, at stage 3 and had entered her lymph nodes. This large lump had to be attacked aggressively to shrink it down before it could be removed via an operation.
The day Brooke told me was when we were meeting for lunch. I expected to see my dear friend with her long black hair and was in shock when I arrived. Brooke was so positive, and said to me "Please Caz, I don't want your tears today. My tears went down the shower plughole with my hair. I need your positive outlook and laughs today and all the way through this". So the first thing to do was order Champagne!
And as tough as it was, and I always left Brooke and went home and cried and cried, (tears are flowing again and hands shaking typing this now), that is what I did, as I didn't know what else to do and felt so helpless. I just wanted to put my arms around my beautiful friend and make it all go away. The reason this is being shared is I am sure you have all been through this with love ones.
Luckily Brooke, with her strength, courage and humility was able to pull through this year and is now looking happy and healthy again. Brooke did this living on her own, with her much loved fur baby "Bear", and support of family and friends. Brooke is still not out of the woods, but on her way.
Brooke has kindly shared her story of the day her life fell apart. Her strength is apparent with being able to write this story. My little "pocket rocket" friend would love for you to please keep supporting breast cancer foundations.
Today is Australia's Biggest Morning Tea - Cancer Council Australia's extremely popular fundraising event, held all over Australia today. Last year they managed to raise over $11.9 million, and today they are hoping to raise over $13 million to fund research, prevention and support services required for those affected by cancer.
The Day My Life Fell Apart At 35 - By Brooke Roberts.
New Years Eve in 2015 started like any other with phone calls and messages about party arrangements, what time to get together for pre-drinks and of course what we planned to wear. I happened to be in the shower when I felt a lump under the skin of my right breast. Thinking it was probably nothing I got out of the shower and towelled dry. Again I could feel a hard lump under the surface of my skin. As I’m quite petite in size I thought perhaps this hard lump could be a bone or somehow… a rib! Then I felt around the left breast and there was no hard bone or lump there and immediately realised something was wrong as there was a lump, bone or rib inside my boob that definitely shouldn’t be there.
Without bothering to dress I rang around the nearby doctor surgeries however being News Years Eve with a public holiday and weekend to follow they were closed. My regular GP was away for 3 weeks and I wasn’t going to wait that long to have the lump checked out. So I made myself promise that I wouldn’t mention this to anyone and would have a regular, happy night out with friends. Which almost worked until 2am I was quite tipsy and burst into tears telling a close friend what I had discovered earlier. They were very comforting as you would imagine but it made everything seem worse now that I’d shared the news. New Years Day I finally secured an appointment at a clinic in Prahran for the following day so I tried not to think about the possible outcome if the lump was in fact a tumour. As some family members had benign lumps I chose to be optimistic that this could also be the same situation.
After a mammogram presented no lump in either breast, I had an ultra sound. On the screen appeared a solid black mass inside my breast tissue, which made me silently weep. Something about the dark coloured lump looked evil and angry. Tears rolled down my cheek and onto the standard issue hospital gown. At that moment I wanted nothing more than my Mum… To hold my hand and reassure me I would be ok however Mum lives two hours away and she wasn’t there because at this stage I hadn’t told anyone as I didn’t want them to worry unnecessarily. Over the next two weeks I had more ultra sounds, a core biopsy and then a second biopsy.
Despite this I remained optimistic until the night before my second appointment with Corrine, the Breast Specialist and Surgeon. Family had been told of the tests however I still refused their offer to accompany me as I was sure the tests would prove benign and life could just go on as usual. As a single 35 year old female with a fur baby instead of real children, work was a big priority and all of these appointments were becoming a bother to schedule and reschedule clients let alone get actual work completed and achieve business goals.
After a long hot Melbourne summer day of work I arrived at Corinne’s office where she compassionately advised I had advanced stage 3 breast cancer and that I was in for a year long journey of treatment including the strongest chemotherapy available, surgery to remove the lump and a month of radiation. Naturally my first question was “will I still be able to work?” and she explained that no I was in for a tough 12 months of treatment but we could expect a full recovery after. So I chose to focus on the full recovery part and when I called the family to tell them, this was the part of the news I delivered. Corinne had scheduled two more weeks of appointments commencing the next day so I had to again cancel on clients but I didn’t tell my work team what was going on. I needed time to figure it all out and how I was going to manage looking after myself and an energetic puppy who required daily walks and play outside of our apartment.
Little did I know what I was in for. It is amazing reading this article and realising what my priorities were, to what they are today. Cancer sure does change them.
Thank you Brooke for sharing your courageous story. Thank you for reading.
Please pass onto anyone who would be interested in hearing about Brooke, who would also love to hear from you.
And if you are due for your check up, please book in for one today.
Breast cancer health checks for women - Better Health Channel
Women of any age should visit the doctor within a week or so if they notice any breast changes. Women aged between 50 and 74 years who have no personal or family history of breast cancer should have a screening mammogram (breast x-ray) every two years.
If you have a personal or family history of breast cancer, your doctor can help you to decide how often you need to be screened.