About this story
Samantha was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in 2014, three days before her son's second birthday, and then with metastatic breast cancer in 2019. She shares her experience living with metastatic breast cancer and what lessons she's learned.
I was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in 2014, three days before my son’s second birthday, and then with metastatic breast cancer in 2019.
When I first noticed a lump in my breast, I was assured it was “just a fatty lump” and that I had nothing to worry about. This quickly escalated to suspicions of stage 1 breast cancer and then, when it was found in my lymph nodes, stage 2 breast cancer. After my surgery I found out that my cancer was more advanced than initially thought, and that’s when I was actually diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. That was the day my life changed forever.
I went into fight mode for many months until after my double mastectomy when they told me all of the cancer had been removed. I cried with relief. I finally had hope after months of surgeries, chemo, losing my hair and daily radiation.
I started hormone therapy and began to rebuild my life as I moved further away from my diagnosis. It was a struggle to get back into the rhythm of things because so much had changed after treatment. It felt like life came to a crashing holt when I was diagnosed, and the trauma of the journey took its toll on aspects of my life like my work and my marriage.
As I approached the five-year mark post diagnosis, I started to feel like I was out of the woods until pneumonia and back pain revealed my cancer had spread to my lungs and bones. The cancer had metastasised.
The challenges of metastatic breast cancer are often unseen. The trauma of knowing that it's incurable, facing the uncertainty of time, and being on medication for the rest of my life has taken a long time to come to terms with. No one knows that I’m struggling and dealing with constant pain because I have my hair and often look well.
BCNA’s advocacy work in subsidising the drug Ibrance has made it possible for me to have a better quality of life. It blew my mind when I first saw the cost involved with the medication. If it wasn’t subsidsed, there is no way I’d be able to afford it. I would be on another medication where I'd have to go into hospital every two weeks.
The breast cancer feels more manageable now and less like my identity which has also given my son a better quality of life. He hardly recognises me now that my new normal allows me to get out and about. I have some hope for my future, and I am finally living for life, not death.
My metastatic breast cancer diagnosis has come with many life lessons. Some I’m grateful for, and others I could do without. Metastatic breast cancer is often misunderstood which makes me feel alone, but organisations like BCNA have connected me with others living with breast cancer which has been really comforting during those tough times.
Today, I savour every moment, cherish the things that money can’t buy, and I love my friends and family that much harder. I feel blessed to have experienced the generosity of strangers, the kindness of friends and loved ones, and the passion of others to want to help in time of crisis.
Thank you for supporting others that are yet to learn of this harsh curve ball called cancer. With the help of organisations like BCNA, you provide a softer place to land, hope, comfort and the support they are yet to know they will need.
How are you feeling?
If this story has raised any issues for you - please call the helpline on 1800 500 258.
Alison shares her experience of living with breast cancer. From the intensity of diagnosis to the life lessons she’s learned along the way
Strategies to help those affected by an early breast cancer diagnosis
Reduce stress and enhance wellbeing during breast cancer care
Let’s be upfront about behavioural changes.
Let’s be upfront about the challenges for those living with metastatic breast cancer.
Let’s be upfront about anxiety in a cancer context.
Welcome to What You Don’t Know Until You Do: Unlimited, with Dr Charlotte Tottman.