Patient story – Jane

My message to others is that, as soon as you turn 40, PLEASE go and start getting your breasts checked. If I had waited until I was 50, I wouldn’t have survived.

I had just turned 45 when I found a lump in my right breast. I didn’t have any family history of cancer, breast or otherwise, so I wasn’t concerned. I had told my best friend about it and they harassed me to get it checked so I did. That little, pea-sized lump eventually completely disappeared on its own. What they did find during the scan though was invasive grade 3 breast cancer in my other breast –  something I had absolutely no symptoms of at all. So if that small lump hadn’t have been there and I had waited to start breast screening at 50 years old, I wouldn’t be here today. Finding out information about your breast density is also important so that you know what kind of checks and tests are right for you.

My breast cancer diagnosis came at a challenging time for me as I had a lot of other major life-changing things already happening in my life. I felt like the cancer diagnosis and treatment became secondary to everything else, and was something that I just had to get on with. Helping my children to understand  what was happening to me and reassure them that I was going to be okay was more important to me than how I was being affected. I didn’t tell them about the cancer until after my first mastectomy and once I knew the cancer had been removed. Then I could tell them that they had found cancer, but that I didn’t have it any more. I endured chemo and herceptin for over a year, had radiation therapy, and will now be on medication for the rest of my life which has put me into early menopause.

The changes that my body has been through, and will continue to go through, have been a bit of a shock. Having said that, I have found ignorance to be bliss at times throughout the whole process of defeating breast cancer!

My hair falling out was particularly difficult and I chose to shave my head in order to feel like I had some kind of control over what was happening to me.. Together with my niece, Alice (who raised $8,000 for cancer research by shaving her head) we donated our hair to friends of the family who are artists. Sam Jinks made a beautiful sculpture of a woman, using our hair, and it made me feel so much better knowing a lovely thing came out of something so horrible.

Sam Jinks sculpture ‘Seated Woman’