Public speaking coach, mentor & author living with breast cancer, BRISBANE
Married for close to four decades, mother and working professional, Trish, 59, Brisbane, trains people in public speaking, and helps authors to transform books into keynote presentations.
In 2007, Trish and her husband, Peter, tragically lost their son, Craig to suicide, which Trish recalls as the most difficult and challenging time of her life.
To add salt to the wound, Trish’s husband, Peter, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006 which necessitated some major changes to the couple’s lives.
In February, 2014, after moving house, Trish visited her GP for a routine check-up, and subsequently updated her address. During her visit, Trish’s GP also enquired as to whether she had informed her local breast cancer screening clinic of her new address, and if she had undergone a recent breast cancer screening test.
Overdue for her screening test, Trish promptly visited her local clinic, and was subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer.
This is her story.
“I’m a strong, living advocate for early detection through breast screening,” said Trish.
“I adore my GP for keeping on top of things, and for vigorously ensuring I have regular breast cancer checks.
“Since my 40s, I’ve undergone regular breast screening, once every two years,” Trish said.
When diagnosed with breast cancer in February, 2014, Trish was asymptomatic.
“I couldn’t see or feel anything. Not even the doctors could feel a lump on my breast,” recalled Trish.
Breast cancer screening detected two small lumps on the back of Trish’s chest wall, a biopsy of which left Trish with a stage two breast cancer diagnosis.
“I was extremely fortunate. Had my doctor not reminded me about the screening test, my cancer could have developed into something much more serious,” said Trish.
With no family history of breast cancer, Trish was shocked by her diagnosis.
“My initial reaction was shock because the diagnosis came completely out of left field. It was totally unexpected.”
Two weeks after her diagnosis, Trish underwent surgery to remove the cancerous lumps and spent the ensuing three months undergoing daily radiotherapy sessions.
“Following my diagnosis, I had some lymph nodes removed, lost part of my breast, and had to undergo radiotherapy,” Trish said.
“I was then placed on letrozole [a hormone receptor positive breast cancer treatment for women who are no longer menstruating, whether due to surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or natural ageing], and charged with completing a five year course of this treatment.
“Fortunately, my breast cancer diagnosis took place in Australia, where all associated benefits and risks of treatment are individually assessed,” said Trish.
“Had I been living in America, or elsewhere, I would most likely have had to endure a course of radiotherapy, followed by chemotherapy, and then administered all sorts of different tablets.
“Fortunately for me, the benefits of chemotherapy did not appear to outweigh the risks, so there was no need for me to undergo any unnecessary chemotherapy treatment,” Trish said.
According to Trish, her husband has coped well with her breast cancer diagnosis.
“He has always looked at me for the person who I am on inside, and loves me, for me.
“He’s just had to come to terms with my growling, hot flushes and tablets these days!” said Trish.
Trish’s stoic battle with breast cancer tends to pale into insignificance in comparison to the loss of her beloved son.
“Nothing ever compares to the loss of a child. Losing my son has given me a completely different perspective on life.
“I consider going through breast cancer as something I just have to do,” Trish said.
Trish has four years remaining before being granted “a clean bill of health”. In the interim, she has been left with some physical effects of the disease.
“The left side of my breast is numb, there are other physical and emotional effects that I have to deal with on an ongoing basis, but fortunately, my breast cancer was detected early, I’m alive, and I haven’t had to endure a full mastectomy. I’ve achieved a really good result,” said Trish.
According to Trish, anyone who chooses to avoid free breast cancer detection screening is “an idiot”, because screening saves lives.
Trish believes the For Benefit Medicines initiative – Australia’s first ‘for-benefit’ pharmaceutical company, whose sole purpose is to distribute 100 per cent of profits to local patient support and medical research organisations – is very worthwhile.
“Any funds ploughed back into breast cancer research and development, and to supporting those living with, or survivors of breast cancer, is a great idea.
“At every age, people should be aware of their bodies, and avail themselves of any disease screening opportunities – that includes breast cancer screening,” Trish said.
“Don’t think breast cancer won’t happen to you, and don’t procrastinate.
“Be sure to screen for breast cancer, because it could ultimately save your life,” said Trish.