Age: 29 (28 at diagnosis)
Location: Auckland Diagnosis: stage 2, grade 3 triple positive
Instagram username: @steph.col10
Mid August I felt a lump on my left breast when I was in the shower. I compared it to the right breast and couldn’t feel a similar lump but I still thought nothing of it so I left it. I remember feeling for it a week or so later and it had gone so that was that. I spoke to my mum about it and she said you can get lumps when your period is due or fluid filled cysts which you just get drained out. I remember saying to her “it could be cancer” and she said “don’t be stupid” and we literally just joked and laughed. I felt again at some stage in the shower and the lump was there again. I was concerned but not hugely. Here is where my story gets abit odd.. I started experiencing really extreme lower stomach/pelvic pain.
I self diagnosed myself with a bladder infection. The pain was unbearable! My female GP was booked so I went and saw a random male GP at the same clinic. I told him I thought it was a bladder infection, he asked, “why do you say that” and I replied “well I googled it and the symptoms match my symptoms.” I could see him looking at me as if I was total idiot. He sent me off to pee on a stick and to come back in ten mins once they have tested it. He called me back to his room and said it didn’t show anything so couldn’t give me any antibiotics or send me home with any pain relief as we didn’t know what was causing the pain. This was midday on a Wednesday. Off home I went.
That night the pain got worse and I went back to the same clinic but to the after hours emergency side of it. No one knew what the pain was from but it was worse than when I gave birth. They booked me in for a pelvic ultrasound for the upcoming Monday- so four days from when I had this pain. I wanted to see my female GP to get her to do an examination so I booked in for the Friday before my ultrasound on the Monday. Friday came and the pain had gone!!! Completely! I didn’t feel the need to see my GP so I rung that morning to cancel the appointment, I couldn’t get through to cancel so I said to mum “oh I’ll just go cause it’s rude not to show up, I’ll tell her the pain is gone but can she check my lump in my boob” and so I went off to see her. She felt my breast and straight away could feel the lump. She said to keep my pelvic ultrasound on that Monday coming up and she’ll add on a breast ultrasound at the same time. She told me to enjoy my weekend and not worry saying it will more than likely be a fluid filled cyst and explained to me how they just drain them out. I went off the scans on Monday by myself, feeling fine!
The lady told me the pelvic ultrasound showed nothing abnormal but the breast ultrasound she could see the lump I found plus another one! She didn’t give away anything else. I kept my cool, got in the car, rung mum and said it showed two lumps, mum just played it down aswel. Once I got off the phone to her I burst into tears. I was driving home not even 30 minutes later and my phone started ringing, it was my GP. I knew this wasn’t good. She said she wanted me to book in for a biopsy as soon as I could and told me the name of the place she wanted me to go to. (Keep in mind the dates of all of this.. Wednesday my first appointment for my stomach pains, Friday my normal GP, Monday ultrasound). I couldn’t get in for a biopsy on Tuesday and Wednesday was the soonest so I booked for that.
Biopsy happened and they said come back that Friday for the results that they would rush through. Friday 13th October 2017 I was told I had two cancerous tumours. My world came crashing down! The stomach and pelvic pain never came back and still we don’t know what caused it, I truely believe it was my body telling me something wasn’t right! I’m glad I went to the random GP that day even though I’m sure he didn’t take me seriously. I knew something was wrong and I’m so very lucky I didn’t cancel that appointment with my usual GP on the Friday. I was told if I had left it two more weeks my cancer would have spread beyond the breast. I have ended up with a mastectomy of the left breast and lost my nipple.
I went through five months of chemotherapy and 20 rounds of herceptin. I’m on monthly injections and daily medication for a minimum of five years. I have a expander in place but am due for reconstruction surgery early 2019.
Resources that helped Steph:
I think speaking with women who had already been through what I was about to go through helped me the most. And women who were going through it at the same time as me also. I am lucky enough to be part of a young women’s group for women who got diagnosed with breast cancer aged 45 and under and these women have been amazing! I tried to stay clear of looking resources up online as they would spook me out and I’d get very down about cancer and worried that I wouldn’t make it through.
My oncologist gave me print outs of the drugs I would be on and they listed all the info I needed to know. I have been in contact with the NZ breast cancer foundation through out my diagnosis and they have been lovely and helpful when I needed them. Also I was set up with a nice lady from the cancer society but I chose not to keep seeing her as I wasn’t in the headspace for that at the time but they were very helpful and I would recommend them to anyone who may benefit from their help.