"I had found a few lumps in my breasts over the years, and they'd never been anything sinister, usually just cysts. My doctors told me I have 'lumpy breasts'
"My stepmother (who was only four years older than me) died from triple-negative IBC and I promised her I would get regular mammograms before she died.
"Here in Australia, you get free screening mammograms every two years after you turn 50. I was only 40 when I had my first one, and it was never questioned by our health system that I should or shouldn't have them.
"I'd had a couple of them without any problems, but then got called in after one. They'd seen calcifications and wanted to have a closer look. All through the extra testing, I kept getting told it was probably okay. The doctor decided he wanted to do a fine needle biopsy though, just to be sure. Having done that, he decided a core biopsy was needed after all. I was a mess. I was told to come back five days later for the results. I actually got lost in a multi-story carpark when I left I was so upset.
"It turned out to be benign, but I had worried myself sick over it.
"Fast forward eight years and I was due for another mammogram. I booked it, and about three days before the appointment found a lump on the side of my breast while washing under my arm in the shower. It was a bit of a shock, as it seemed to appear from nowhere. I wasn't particularly worried though, as I had the mammogram appointment and all my lumps turned out to be nothing.
"I turned up for the mammogram, and told them about the lump. In Australia, the regular free breast screening is just that -- breast screening -- and sometimes you have to wait a long time if something is found. They advised me not to have the screening test done, but to go to my doctor and have him refer me for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound.
"The next week I found myself on a table having an ultrasound and all the nurses and the doctor suddenly became very quiet. They were finding 'clumps of cells here,' and there's a bunch of 'lobular cells there.' I had a core biopsy, and everyone was being so comforting to me, I knew deep down that something wasn't right. The doctor inserted a clip and told me that whatever it was, it would need to come out.
"I went home and cried for a while, but kept telling myself that all my previous scares had been nothing, and this would be too. Three days later my doctor called me and told me those chilling words 'you have breast cancer.' I was lucky enough to see a breast surgeon the next day -- who told me I had IDC as well as ILC.
"The next few weeks were a blur of tests, and I felt like it was all happening to someone else. It was like having an out-of-body experience. I was completely numb. This wasn't happening to me.
"I thought I was lucky -- it was breast cancer! If I was going to get cancer surely breast cancer was a pretty good one to get -- I could cut off my breast and it would all be okay. I can live easily without a breast, it wasn't my brain or some other vital organ after all. I think I conveniently blocked out the fact that someone very close to me had died of breast cancer.
"After the surgery, which went fairly well, I spent the next 30 hours throwing up -- I'm allergic to anesthetic!
"Home to recover and was surrounded by love and support. My dear husband was my rock (and still is). He wasn't the least bit concerned that I was losing a breast. He told me it was me he loved, not my breasts. He was more worried that I was going to die from the disease.
"We got the first lot of pathology back, one lymph node and ER/PR-positive. All looked good and I really thought I wouldn't have to do chemo. The operation had got it all and I could get on with the rest of my life.
"Then we found out the IDC was HER2-positive. Chemo was a certainty. Suddenly I had to go back in to have a port inserted and have chemo education. My breast cancer turned ugly.
"I think that's when I really started to worry and sought help from the internet. Luckily for me I found Breastcancer.org. It's been my lifesaver.
"I didn't have an easy time with chemo. FEC was okay -- but Taxotere nearly killed me. I had the support of my friends on the forum to get me through as well as a loving and supportive group of family and friends.
"My brother was diagnosed with bowel cancer a few weeks after my mastectomy, and my father died soon after my first chemo treatment. So it was a difficult time in lots of ways.
"While my physical support group was there to cook and clean and generally 'support' me, my 'sisters' on the forum were the ones who knew exactly what I was going through and how I felt and helped me cope.
"Friends think that once chemo is over, everything is okay and you are recovered and ready to move on. The women and men on this site know otherwise and I don't think I would have come through the whole experience as well as I did without them.
"The Aussie girls have a thread that is fairly active, and we meet up once a year at a different city. We have an absolute ball. We are women from all over Australia that got to know each other on the internet, but we love each other with a fierceness that is wonderful.
"I'm now almost four years out from my surgery, and have a few medical issues from chemo -- but I'm alive and living life and that's what matters.
"This site is largely responsible for my emotional recovery and the wonderful friendships I have made.
"Thank you Breastcancer.org Community!"