It was the start of Spring 2021, my favourite time of the year! I had said to myself, everything is just perfect. I had started in a role with a government department which I was over the moon about, Trent and I were both working full-time and were excited about the money we could save and camping trips we were planning with Braxton, our dogs, friends, and family. Also, our family had just celebrated our little Braxy Boi’s 3rd birthday with family and friends. Special mention to my mother-in-law who basically helped organise everything for his birthday while I continued to work full-time.
Leading up to his birthday on 16 September, I had started to have random chest pains on my right side. I thought it was strange and made a telehealth appt with my GP for 21 September as I was working Monday to Friday. On that day Braxton’s day-care called and asked me to pick him up as he was not well.
As I was leaving the office, I changed my appt to face-to-face as I now had the time. My GP mentioned that for my age chest pains were most likely heartburn, but we would do a CT scan to be safe. I went next door to X-Ray & Imaging with Braxton to see if they could do a quick scan of my chest. I said to the ladies that I am sure everything is fine and that I could come back tomorrow if they were too busy. However, the lovely ladies at X-Ray & Imaging squeezed me in and looked after Braxton. I also did a blood test straight after at QML but those results would take a couple of days.
My mother-in-law looked after Braxton, and I went to work. I called the ladies at my GP clinic to confirm they received the scans and was told if there was anything urgent that my GP would call me. My chest pains continued to bother me but I thought to myself that no call is always a good thing!
My GP called to say he had both results back and that the radiologist had found a small lump which was most likely a cyst and a couple of nodules on my chest for which an antibiotic was prescribed for. He said that my blood readings were fine except for my liver which was showing a higher than normal reading. My GP thought it might have something to do with my gallbladder as it is right next to the liver. I booked the ultrasound for first thing the next day.
I told one of my favourite co-workers who I liked to have a laugh with that I had been experiencing chest pains and was going for a scan the next morning, so expect me to arrive late to the office. We had joked earlier in the week about the heartburn being from all the left-over birthday cake I had consumed at the office – I had it for breakfast and lunch at the start of the – It just tasted so good!
It was lovely to start the day slower with Braxton before daycare and my scan. The radiologist had a good look at my gallbladder and liver during the scan and when she pressed down rather hard there was a very sore spot. She sent me on my way and told me to go enjoy a coffee. I drove away and was a little concerned so I called my parents to update them and started to cry as I just couldn’t get myself to go to work that day, I was so tired. I was going to take it easy and have a day to myself.
Not even an hour after leaving for my scan, my GP called and advised there were no issues with my gallbladder and that we needed to get to the bottom of the liver issue. The radiologist at the X-Ray and Imaging centre informed my GP that they would be able to squeeze me in this afternoon for a CT scan of the liver and while I was there to have an ultrasound on the breast. I needed to enjoy some of the time that I had off so treated myself to a nice breakfast and coffee at a local café and relaxed at home until the appts. I spoke with my husband as part of me wanted him to come with me but he was not going to make it in time due to work and I thought to myself, I will be fine I have been to plenty of medical appts by myself.
First up was the liver CT scan with dye which was a new experience for me. When the dye goes into your body you feel this rush of warmth that ends in the groin area like you are going to wee your pants.
The second was the ultrasound of my breasts. At this point, I started to get a little nervous, but my radiographer was just incredible, and we chatted the whole time. Upon reflection, I do recall at the time that my left armpit area was sensitive when she pushed down with the ultrasound probe. The radiographer said they usually schedule the biopsy on a separate date, but she would check with their onsite doctor.
While I was waiting, I said to myself, if she returns and I don’t need the biopsy then happy days it’s just a cyst, but I also had this gut feeling that this would not be the case and started to tear up. When she returned, she said the doctor would like to do the biopsy today but if I had had enough for today, we could do it early next week.
My mind and heart were racing at a million miles per hour, and I automatically put two and two together to think the absolute worst given they were concerned about my breast and a secondary area being the liver. I broke down into tears which I couldn’t control and was shaking. One half of my brain knew that I needed to have the biopsy done straight away and the other half did not want to know anything. I asked the radiographer to call my husband to tell him to come and pick me up as I was in no state to drive and I needed him to be there with me immediately so he could hold me.
The doctor went ahead with the biopsy while I was holding the radiographer’s hand, I wouldn’t let go, it was all that I could focus on at that point. I did not feel the local anesthetic but remember being freezing and constantly shaking from my body going into shock. The doctor told me he would have my report ready within an hour and to go direct to my GP for the results.
After the biopsy, I asked the radiologist to go call my husband again to find out what was taking so long. When she returned, I was still bawling my eyes out and I asked her to not leave me as I did not want to be alone. When Trent arrived, he came out the back to get me, and as we walked out, I just kept repeating to him “it’s really, really bad”. When I saw my mother-in-law (she came to take my car home), I said the same thing “it’s really, really bad”. As we drove away, I called my parents immediately, said the same thing, and screamed at them to come home now as I needed them. At this point, my parents were in Mission Beach on a much-deserved trip in their motorhome en-route for Cairns. They left first thing the next day.
When I arrived at the GP’s office my regular GP was away for the afternoon, but another GP had been briefed and was expecting me. My husband and I went into his office and I was in such a state that I had to take a Valium to try and calm down. Before he even spoke, I told him that I knew what was going on. I couldn’t bring myself to say the word ‘cancer’ and he said it doesn’t look good, but they were not 100% sure what was going on with the liver spots, but my GP would do everything he could for me to see a specialist urgently next week.
I told the GP I wanted to go to the hospital to see if they could give me something stronger than Valium to basically sedate me for the weekend until I could see my GP. While I was waiting for all my paperwork, I went out to the reception area and was acting so erratic that I sat on the floor behind the reception desk and was crying to the receptionist. She was amazing by listening and trying to help. I don’t recall the full conversation, but I remember the feeling of her being there was somewhat comforting. I also felt like my whole world had come to an end, everything was spinning, like that feeling you get when someone close to you passes away. I just couldn’t get my head around what was actually happening. Yes, I had not always looked after my body but surely not I am 34!
I was trying really hard to focus on my breathing trying to take deep belly breaths and hold, exactly what I do when I listen to my meditation for anxiety. At the same time, my mind was racing with a million thoughts like ‘once cancer spreads to other areas of the body there is nothing they can do’, ‘how could my 3-year-old son possibly grow up without his mum from such a young age’ and ‘I have done this to myself all the years of partying and now Braxton and Trent have to pay’ and ‘my parents shouldn’t have to bury their own child’. I do recall the GP saying that they would most likely do a treatment that would target both areas and I held onto this one positive thing.
Following this I made my patient, loving, caring husband take me to the ED as my mother-in-law had picked up Braxton from daycare and was looking after him for the night. By this time Valium had kicked in and I realised that there was nothing that could do for me, but I thought that they had the power to give me a stronger sedative. We waited for about 3.5 hours, and I watched as many sick children walked in and I knew from being there with my sick son that what I was there for was not as important, so we left with a nausea tablet.
25 & 26 September
This was torture. My husband put it perfectly, we had never wished our weekends away but this was one weekend we needed to be over. I tried everything to relax by watching movies and having a bath but I was silly and kept going to doctor google which would panic me more. Trent and I went for a walk in Alexandra Headlands as I wanted to sit at the same significant spot when I found out my granddad had passed away. It was a place where I could cry, look at the beautiful ocean and ask grandad for help. We also visited my friend where there was a moment of smiles and laughter that made me forget for a quick minute and a family friend that is an inspiration to me.
My parents arrived after traveling from Mission Beach to the Sunshine Coast in 2 days to be with me. I had an appointment at 2:30 pm with my GP for the results of my biopsy. My husband and parents attended the appointment with me. My GP confirmed that I had breast cancer and I just started crying. To be honest, I cannot remember much of the appointment, but I told him that I didn’t care how much it cost (We will re-mortgage the house, sell the cars, etc but I needed to see the best specialist and urgently. We discussed the amazing cancer facility at SCUH which is located 10 minutes from my house. I had a biopsy of my left lymph node done and I had the same radiologist. I thanked her for her help on Friday and held her hand again for this biopsy as well, and I was calmer.
28 & 29 September
I do not recall much at all, my husband said I was a zombie. During this time my GP had scheduled me to see an oncologist for a private appointment for 30 September and that he also worked in the public system which was amazing news.
My parents and I went to see my Oncologist for the first time. He squeezed me in on this date which I am still so appreciative of.
He explained to me and my family that I had HER2 + and this is obviously an aggressive one that grows quickly and something that they see in some women potentially after having a baby and breastfeeding.
However, it is my understanding that it is not hormonal. He showed me the CT scan of the lung which had 2 growths. My left breast and liver showed like a grey mass and also in the left arm lymph node. Part of me was listening and looking at the scan and the other part was a million miles away wishing I wasn’t hearing what he was saying.
We asked for the best treatment to please give me the best outcome. He offered me the latest for my type of treatment which is 1 chemo and 2 immunotherapies. I asked if I could start the treatment tomorrow but he needed to get it signed off by the federal government so needed to wait until mid-next week due to the public holiday.
I don’t recall much more of the conversation as I was beside myself in tears and I said to the oncologist that I must be alive and healthy for my son as he is only 3 years old and he needs his mum, plus my husband and family. I will do anything for them.
I had an echo of my heart to ensure it’s fit and healthy to keep up with treatment which was positive and an MRI of my brain which was also positive. Finally, I had some positive news which meant I was ready and able to go ahead with my incredible treatment that I am so thankful for.