Kylie bravely shares her story...
My mother, grandmother, aunt and my sister were all diagnosed with breast cancer at different ages and stages of their lives. Naturally with my family history I made sure I had regular scans and was scrutinised very closely. When you are ‘high risk’ you go along every year. It’s hugely stressful. First there’s the mammogram, ultrasound and MRI. Then there’s the waiting, worrying and wondering.
In 2012, after 6 months of tests and a gruelling biopsy under MRI I was overjoyed when a dubious ‘patch’ in my left breast was declared clear of cancer. But that joy was short lived. After more tests the following year the decision was made to remove it. It turns out it wasn’t clear after all. It was a grade one 9mm tubular carcinoma.
The timing couldn’t have been worse. I had only just finished a postgraduate scholarship and was facing unemployment. At the same time my landlord advised me they wanted to sell my home and I needed to find a new place to live! So I was facing no job, no income, no home and I had just been diagnosed with cancer. 2013 looked like a very unlucky number for me.
I know how lucky I am that the cancer was discovered early but I didn’t want to chance going through this again. The surgeon at SCGH was both brilliant and kind. Thanks to her, I was the first of my family to be offered the option of a double mastectomy which would preventany chance of a reoccurrence, more years of testing, stress, wondering and waiting.
Was I doing the right thing?
Meanwhile pictures began appearing on the internet featuring a lady post double mastectomy and DIEP reconstruction. The scarring was horrendous. Worrying about my decision I went back on the website and that’s when someone suggested I contact Moira at Breast Cancer Care WA.
It stuns me now that I went through all this stress until then without reaching for their support.
I’ll never forget that phone call from Moira. I pulled over in the car and we talked for an hour about my decision, my fears, my children, my lack of support and my shaky finances. Nothing was ‘off-limits’. In her calm and lovely voice she suggested that I go back to see my breast clinic surgeon and discuss my fears. Moira was like a magic weaver, drawing in all the lines of support that were available to me. My new ‘best friend’ investigated all the financial support available to me as a single mother and arranged a house cleaner to help me in weeks post-surgery when I would be unable to lift anything heavier than my purse.
She sent me information about ways to support my children who were reeling from the fact that their super-mum had cancer and was not able to be super any more. Moira also connected me with Aileen, one of the counsellors from Breast Cancer Care WA who has been a constant source of kindness and wisdom for me and my family ever since.
I could not have survived the cancer surgery journey of 2013-2014 without Moira and Aileen with my sanity, family or my finances intact. I just wish I’d reached out to them earlier.
My sister and mother were both amazing; helping at home while I was is hospital. One of my dearest friends left her own husband and school-aged children in Melbourne for 6 days after I returned from hospital. Aileen and Moira never made me feel rushed. I never felt judged. I never felt that my journey had to follow anyone else’s trajectory except my own. Their regular, quiet, kind contacts with me were like a safety net, or two vital pillars of support beneath the shaking foundations of my post cancer surgery life. Combined with the two other pillars of my friends and my close family they stopped me from crashing - even though it sometimes felt like I might.
Now, nearly 15 months since that awful diagnosis, I finally feel that life is returning to normal. I have just had my part-time contract renewed and am about to return to some casual teaching. I’ve lost so much weight, people often comment about how well I look. I just smile and say ‘thank you’. But the biggest thank you I reserve for Moira and Aileen. They have both made such an enormous difference to my cancer recovery journey, to my life and my children’s lives. I also say thank you to everyone at Breast Cancer Care WA who make everything happen.
What an amazing organisation. The women of Western Australia are incredibly fortunate to have these extraordinary people supporting women like me. We need to give Breast Cancer Care WA everything they need and more, so they can continue helping people and families like mine.”