About this story
Renee was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in 2020. she had a two-year-old daughter, Eden, and she was 12 weeks pregnant at the time. She shares what it was like to be diagnosed with breast cancer with a young, growing family
I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in 2020. I had a two-year-old daughter, Eden, and I was 12 weeks pregnant at the time.
It all started in the January when I found a lump in my left breast. I went straight to the doctor to get an ultrasound referral to have it looked at, but I put the slip in my bedside table, and I left it there…
Being 33 I thought I was too young, and it would be nothing, but in the April I noticed the lump had gotten bigger so I had it checked. I thought maybe it was my just my milk ducts preparing for the baby, but further tests, including a biopsy, revealed it was breast cancer.
I’ll never forget the drive my hubby and I made from Bacchus Marsh to Ballarat to see the breast surgeon. On the way we talked about whether we needed to terminate the pregnancy or not. We had no idea what to do, but when we got there my breast surgeon told us the pregnancy could go ahead, which was incredible news.
As for my treatment, I couldn’t have chemotherapy straight away as it was too early in the pregnancy, so I had a lumpectomy first. They removed a 3.4cm tumor, which was stuck in a milk duct.
I then underwent 16 weeks of chemotherapy when I was 17 weeks pregnant, which took me to 36 weeks pregnant, and four days after my last treatment I gave birth to my beautiful baby boy, Jagger.
Going through treatment while pregnant was very emotional. I guess from all the hormones, but it was okay. You go into survival mode being a mum and wanting to protect your unborn baby.
After having Jagger, I went through a month's worth of radiation and then onto a year's worth of oral chemotherapy. That was probably one of the toughest times, having to go through treatment, deal with all the side effects, and look after a baby and a toddler at the same time.
I was very lucky support wise. My mum was meant to be traveling the world, but due to COVID she couldn’t, so I had her around for the whole duration of my treatment. I also have an amazing husband and my little girl at home.
Being diagnosed during COVID was hard too. We couldn't have many visitors to the house and a lot of the other support options weren’t available. My amazing breast care nurse, Leanne, got me in touch with an organisation called Mummy’s Wish. They were absolutely fantastic. They sent out care packages for my children, including these gorgeous little teddy bears that I could record my voice into for them. I also got to choose whether I wanted meals cooked, petrol vouchers, a house cleaner, or a gardener.
My breast cancer nurse also linked me into BCNA’s My Journey. Breast cancer doesn’t run in my family, so it was all very new to us. All the information I needed was there in My Journey. It was current, it was up to date, it was Australian. I wasn't getting any foreign statistics or any of the other scary things that you may see on Google.
I also recently attended BCNA’s Information Forum in Ballarat to get a bit of information about going on with life after all of your treatment. What type of tools and support networks are out there to help you get over all the trauma that you've just been through, going through chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and everything else associated with breast cancer.
Looking back over my experience, I think the biggest piece of advice I would give other women is that if you notice anything out of the ordinary, go straight to the GP to get it checked. Never just pass it off as nothing, even if you're pregnant. I'm a huge advocate for self-breast checks, particularly being younger because we don't go for mammograms. Check your breasts regularly, whether it's in the shower or laying down in bed, so you notice if anything changes.
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