I Was Diagnosed with Breast Cancer At Nearly The Same Age My Mother Was
When you think of the classic attitude that sickness or death will never happen to you, or that you are one of the lucky ones that haven’t been personally affected, that was never me. Since the age of five, cancer has been a very close relative to my family, always knocking on the doorstep and getting in the way like an annoying neighbour.
At age 32, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She received chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and radiotherapy the first time around. Fate dealt her an extremely cruel hand, and by the time I was 28, she was battling her fourth and final acquaintance with cancer. She passed away in May 2014, still smiling and fighting until the end.
It has been found that I contain the same genetic mutation as my mother, BRCA2, explaining how I am now following in her footprints at more or less exactly the same age. My aunt was also diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39, but since then has been in complete remission for over 22 years. She has not been found to contain the BRCA2 gene.
My Own Diagnosis
Approximately three months ago, at age 33, I found a lump in my breast. I had never known what to expect or feel for when hearing that you should check regularly, but when you find one there is no denying that something alien has entered your body. At this point I was in Austria (where I am still receiving treatment) and had just completed my Snowboard Instructors qualification. Over the course of a week I received every test going from cat scan to MRI, mammogram, sonogram and a double biopsy. I was diagnosed with a rare form of Breast Cancer called “Her2 Positive”. My right breast contained a large tumour mass, the largest being about 25mm wide. I was told I would need therapy, a double mastectomy and radiotherapy…the full works as the doctor indicated. He also indicated that although the tumour had not spread, the lymph nodes under my right armpit were active, adding a further worry. My eyes rolled around and my mind began to go into overload. At the same time I was almost laughing at the typicalness of these situations. I was ready to hear the worst.
Treatment In Another Country
In Austria they regularly practice a therapy known as immunotherapy. In combination with chemotherapy, this treatment is also specifically for patients with Her2 Positive, resulting in remarkable success, often more so than other forms of Breast Cancer. Due to the aggressive nature of my tumours, the specialist suggested starting treatment straight away, which in Austrian time meant four days. Making the decision to reside in Austria for a minimum of 4 months and being away from friends and family, I decided this was the best option I could take. In total I would receive treatment once every three weeks with six treatments in total, on a combination drug of chemotherapy and antibodies (Immunotherapy).
For a girl in my situation, if we are talking about silver linings, I am not happy at all that I have cancer, but I am very happy that it happened here. I am simply astonished at the rapidness of the medical team at Schwaz Hospital in Austria and feel very lucky every day that I accidentally ended up in this beautiful country. It was here that I also met my wonderful boyfriend John, who has stuck by me through the thick and thin of this journey. No one can understand what you are going through, but having support is so important and I have had numerous visits from friends and family, flying over with the main goal…to keep my chin up and keep me smiling.
Cancer is one hell of a rollercoaster
Times can be tough, emotions can run very high, losing my hair was an experience in itself, mouth ulcers, sickness and fatigue are all part of the journey. But hang on a minute, let’s not be too depressing or self-pitying, there are also many positives to this experience. Since being diagnosed with cancer I have lead a healthier lifestyle than ever in my adult years. I stopped drinking beer, giving me a much flatter belly than before. I now have actual fingernails, something I have never in my life been able to achieve! For a sick person my appetite is out of this world, I cook, bake and eat more than ever, a part of my therapy as I like to call it. With my friends, I am now allowed to play “the Cancer Card”. A joke of course, but this is a great mental way of making the situation lighthearted and relieving stress.
I feel lucky for all I have experienced so far in life, which has allowed me to appreciate what really matters and give me the strength to get through these moments. Each morning I try to remember that I am out here living my life the way I wanted it, that this is simply a small stepping stone. No one is alone through this. Life isn’t forever, but we have to make the most of it, regardless of the situation, so fight the good fight, be positive, raise that middle finger towards cancer and smile.– Lara Parsons