Second time lucky

Lucky or unlucky? After being diagnosed with breast cancer a second time, Robyn believes she is both.

‘It was a harsh wake-up call, but one I am grateful for. After treatment for breast cancer in 2011, I gradually fell back into the trap of stressful work, not eating properly and rushing around.’

After receiving a second diagnosis of early breast cancer, the mother of four required a double mastectomy last year. She describes 2017 as a ‘horror’.

‘I developed a severe infection from the reconstruction. In total I had seven surgeries and one of the implants had to come out.’

Robyn admits the emotional impact of her surgery took her by surprise.

‘I didn’t think it would bother me, but it did. People would say “Oh, it’s just a boob job”, but it’s not. You don’t know how you’ll feel until it happens to you.

‘I thought I’m 57 years old, am I being stupid?’

There was also the sad realisation of what her mother had endured after a double mastectomy four decades earlier. Robyn, who was 17 at the time, remembers listening to her cry in the bathroom.

‘She didn’t have the option of a reconstruction and used to say she’d been “chopped to pieces”.

‘I wish I had known more, done more, but it wasn’t talked about then. I don’t even know whom she spoke to – if anyone. I’ve been lucky – my daughter has been my rock.’

Kindred spirits have also been found on BCNA’s online network.

‘I felt so alone when I was suffering from the infection – speaking to others who had the same experience was a great relief.

‘My daughter also found it really helpful to connect to others because the whole family is affected when you’re sick.’

Now committed to living a healthier lifestyle, including meditation, the grandmother of five shares one of the biggest lessons she learned about seeking psychological help.

‘The first time I had breast cancer, I thought I could handle it all by myself – I didn’t make that mistake twice.’

While grateful for how the breast cancer experience has improved since her mother’s diagnosis, Robyn describes the financial drain of the disease as ‘ridiculous’.

She and her husband have been able to draw on their superannuation for out-of-pocket expenses – estimated at more than $10,000. However, Robyn remains concerned for those who aren’t as fortunate.

Though still recovering from her recent breast reconstruction surgery, her reflection in the mirror has convinced her it is worth it.

This October Robyn will proudly wear not one but two sparkling Pink Lady survivor pins, in recognition of her two diagnoses.

‘To me, seeing the Pink Lady means I am not alone on this journey,

I know if I need support I can reach out. The Pink Lady gives me the resilience I need to keep going.’

Robyn with her mother and her daughter

Robyn with her mother and her daughter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for preparing for breast reconstruction

Prepare yourself to be as physically fit for surgery as possible. The better shape you are in before your reconstruction, the less likely you are to experience complications.

  • Lose weight if you are overweight or obese.
  • Stop smoking, ideally six weeks before surgery.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Avoid alcohol, ideally six weeks before surgery.
  • Get active.
  • Practice relaxation techniques.

If you are unsure if breast reconstruction is right for you, you can use BCNA’s free online breast reconstruction decision aid BRECONDA. Visit breconda.bcna.org.au.

Issue 82
Autumn 2018