12 March 2020
Written by Tracey Laity, Marketing Coordinator
A history of benign cysts and a GP who insisted cancerous lumps were not painful left Amy Hickman unprepared for the possibility of breast cancer. But a friend’s good advice to book a free mammogram at BreastScreen WA changed everything,
Amy can still remember the time on the clock when she was told the news she had breast cancer: it said 2.35pm. All she heard after the four simple words: “You have breast cancer” was a rush of white noise. And although her husband said that they sat together in the consulting room at Royal Perth Hospital for over an hour more, she can’t recall any other part of the conversation they had with her doctor.
Things moved pretty fast after that. The 41-year-old bank manager, who had been so unworried about her biopsy appointment that she had brought her work laptop with her into the waiting room, was scheduled in for a mastectomy of her right breast within two weeks. While undergoing chemotherapy, more lumps were discovered in her left breast, and so she decided to undergo a second mastectomy about six months later. That was July 2019. Now, after completing 25 rounds of radiation, and starting her 10-year journey of Tamoxifen, Amy finds herself in the strange position of being released from the physical demands of her treatment plan, and the emotional safety net of her treatment team, but not being able to break free of the grip of the disease on her way of her life and her mental wellbeing.
“You have no time to think during treatment,” Amy reflects. “It’s like a rollercoaster ride, going through chemotherapy and radiation, and you just focus everything you have on getting through it. But as soon as treatment was finished, I realised that the hardest part of my journey had begun. I had always been adamant that I would simply move on and start afresh, but now I know it’s not that easy. Nobody can prepare you for the emotions you feel after treatment; it’s overwhelming. I mean your treatment has stopped, but you are still literally physically falling apart. People want you to be okay, they want you to say that you’re better because your’re finished, but, in reality, you’re not.”
Since starting Tamoxifen, Amy struggles with fatigue; much to her annoyance, she can fall asleep at the drop of a hat and, more often than not, is found stifling a yawn. Her joints ache all the time, she undergoes waves of nausea and, whenever she feels a twinge in her chest, bouts of anxiety. But she feels herself getting better and stronger all the time; it’s just taking a bit longer than she anticipated.
The ongoing support of Brady Foundation breast care nurse Maria Waton, who stays in regular contact, as well as counsellor Jacqui Cairns, has made the journey that much more bearable for Amy whose immediate family reside in the UK.
A new appreciation for and enjoyment of fitness has been one of the unexpected boons of post-treatment life for Amy. Taking fitness classes has helped her both physically and socially, as she had made many new friends, and she is particularly delighted to be a member of Anna’s triathlon team.
“I’ve really had to push myself outside of my comfort zone,” Amy said. “Joining the program has given me a goal; it’s showing me I’m achieving something. I thought to myself, I could sit around feeling sorry for myself or I could do something about it. And now, I’ve bounced back physically better than I ever was before my cancer. And I’ve met some amazing women along the way.”