Reflecting on her diagnosis, Maureen says it was her regular mammogram appointment that led her to first realise that she might have cancer.
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When I went for my bi-annual mammogram.
The nurse doing the mammogram made a “throwaway” comment, which I seemed to take notice of. I have always had a flat nipple on my right breast and an inverted nipple on my left breast (although breastfeeding helped them a bit), but I noticed around the same time that my right nipple had become quite inverted, so around the same time I started to think the signs did not look good.
I did do a self-examination but, I must admit not religiously, I just missed the lump. Thankfully I always went for my mammogram.
I kept my feelings to myself for the first couple of days, just so I could get my head around it. I never thought “why me?” I just thought, “well, this is the hand that I have been dealt and I have to deal with it, the best I can. It is not going to go away all by itself.”
Breast Screen contacted me and made an appointment at Gloucester House the following week. There I had a 3D mammogram, ultrasound, a physical examination, a fine needle biopsy and a core biopsy.
Four days later they rang me with the results. I was lucky to have Sanjay sitting in on the call that day, and he explained to me that I had a Grade 1, slow-growing, non-invasive tumour.
The plan of action, at that time, would be to operate, radiation and a tablet for the next 5 years. Sanjay said that he would be happy to take on my case or gave me the option of finding another Oncology Surgeon. I was more than happy to become Sanjay’s patient, as he knew my case and was linked with breast screen.
So, I got a referral and made an appointment with him at Chris O’Brien Life House 10 days later.
I felt as though I could not have been in better hands.
Sanjay and his team could not have been more caring and personable. He recommended that I have a nipple sacrificing mastectomy and sent me for many tests, to cover all the bases. His team made all the appointments and kept in touch with me through it all.
Two weeks later I was booked in for my operation.
After the operation, I was told it was a Grade 2 tumour and it had spread to my lymph nodes, which had to be removed.
As my blood was not profusing properly for an expander to be inserted, I would need a 2nd operation in a week’s time. This was all explained to me by Sanjay’s team and all the arrangements made. Could not have been in better hands.
In my case, that there was never any good news!
As it was a grade 2 tumour, I now had to have chemo, followed by radiation.
There were always little “potholes” along the way, that kept testing me.
Then with chemo, I lost my hair, my taste and many other side effects, which you start to recover from and then along comes radiation, but you somehow get through it all.
The love and support from my husband, family and friends, which was amazing throughout my cancer journey.
One of my grandchildren was very upset with my diagnosis, so I wanted to prove to him that this old girl still had a lot of fight left in her and I would beat this. (Dying was something that never entered my mind).
I also wanted to travel and see more of this world and watch my grandchildren get married and make me a great grandmother!!
One “lucky” break was all of this happened during COVID and many lockdowns, so it did not interfere with me living my “normal” life.
My husband said to me that “we will get through this one day at a time”, which was the best advice and that is exactly what we did.
I found that looking ahead was far too daunting, as was looking up other people and what they went through.
Everyone is different, as is every experience, so I just concentrated on what I was going through, asked questions when needed and took each day as it came.
Sometimes the phone calls, texts, messages, etc., from friends can feel overwhelming, but be patient – they care, and it feels good to know you are not alone and that they are there if you need them.