Miwa Takahashi, 33, was diagnosed with breast cancer in April last year after finding an unusual lump in the shower. The next week flew by – a visit to the GP, an ultrasound, a biopsy, and results in a matter of days.
I knew after the ultrasound that this was a real thing. Before that, I thought it might be a lump from breastfeeding my son (now 3), but it was clear from the ultrasound that this was something else.
After hearing her results, Miwa and her husband Jaume found Breast Cancer Care WA by trawling the internet to find some support. They contacted us immediately and their first experience was with our specialist breast care nurse Joan Burgess. I really felt Joan had the experience I could trust. She’s so reliable — I felt like her care covered the whole of me
In addition, our counsellor Aileen McCaul helped Miwa explore her options and discover what worked best for her.
It was so good to have her there. Counselling is a must. Without it, the whole journey would have been so different.
Miwa, who is working on her PhD in marine biology, has always led an active life and the ocean has been a big part of that. In North Queensland she earned her scuba diving licence and became an instructor. She then completed her Honours thesis at James Cook University, which is where she discovered her love for kite surfing.
Before my diagnosis, I did a little bit of yoga, bike riding, kite surfing — but I was so busy with my study and my child that the most I could do it was once every two weeks.
During her four months of chemotherapy Miwa held back from diving and surfing, as she was worried about the risk of infection from cuts and scratches. But one month after chemo finished she was back in the ocean.
I was out there four or five times a week. It felt so good. I felt so happy that chemo was finished. That I was alive, that this helps me get better even more quickly. I felt like this was part of my treatment and it was good for me not to go straight back to study or to do the housework.
As kite surfing and scuba diving were such important parts of Miwa’s life, any reconstruction options that would affect these activities were a huge concern for her.
If I had a lat-dorsi (latissimus dorsi) reconstruction I wouldn’t have been able to pull myself up on the harness anymore because they cut that muscle. And in scuba diving, you need to pull yourself back up on the boat.
The DIEP flap reconstruction was also not an option because Miwa didn’t have enough fat on her abdomen to perform a bilateral reconstruction.
Just as hard as the decision as to which type of reconstruction Miwa would choose, was the choice whether to have a single or bilateral mastectomy.
I still want to have another child, and wanted to breastfeed. Aileen guided me through that decision. My health came as a priority. She helped me look at it differently.
By discussing her options in a non– judgemental space, Miwa was able to then make the decision by herself, choosing a bilateral mastectomy with an immediate reconstruction using tissue expanders. “I feel so good about my decision,” she shared, “So, Good.”
Counselling is a must. Without it, the whole journey would have been so different.