My second time around | PERSONAL STORY

I’m a two-time breast cancer survivor. The first time, in 2011, I had just retired at the age of 63. A small, aggressive tumour was found by a routine mammogram. This led to a lumpectomy, chemo and radiation.

I managed through all the side effects, including hair loss, with help from my husband, family and friends. Throughout the years after, I had the usual check- ups and felt fit and healthy. I was confidently looking forward to my ‘five-year clear’ milestone. I thought I had beaten it.

After my next check-up, I was devastated to find it had reappeared in the same breast, in the same place, five years to the day after my first lumpectomy.

This time it meant a mastectomy and chemotherapy again. I was very lucky to be offered the ‘head freeze’ or ‘cold cap’ treatment during the chemotherapy sessions. Last time I lost all my hair to chemo and managed with wigs, hats, scarves etc., all of which I gave away to charity several years ago. I was not looking forward to all that again.

The head freeze treatment was a little uncomfortable and took more time, but was pretty easy and very successful for me. I kept all the hair on my head, so recommend others to give it a try.

I have chosen to have a breast implant. As a keen swimmer, I couldn’t imagine water sports while wearing a prosthesis.

So, now at the end of treatment and 2016, I’m fairly fit again, with a full head of hair, looking forward to celebrations with my family and getting back to ‘normal’ living.

Treatment after diagnosis happens so quickly, you almost don’t believe it until your hair falls out. That is when you realise it is serious – it is cancer. This realisation hurts more than the loss of hair. I feel better this second time around. I know I’ve had cancer, I’ve lost one breast, but I have my hair and an implant and I’ve beaten cancer again.

Christine, VIC

Woman smiling

Christine

Issue 79
Winter 2017