Chris, 56

School Business Manager, mother & breast cancer survivor, ADELAIDE

In August, 2014, school business manager and mum to an adolescent son, Chris, 56, Adelaide, noticed she had an inverted nipple, and sought prompt medical attention. After voicing her concerns to her GP, she was referred for a mammogram, and subsequent ultrasound and biopsy later that day.

The investigations revealed Chris was living with a two centimetre breast lump, or “early stage, non-aggressive breast cancer.”

At the time of her diagnosis, Chris was working as a business manager at Blackwood High School, while her husband, Peter, was working in the Middle East. The news hit Chris and her family hard.    

Now, just over a year post- diagnosis, and following three consecutive surgeries, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and daily aromatase inhibitor medication (anastrozole), Chris has returned to work and is preparing to spend this coming New Year’s Eve in Dubai.  

This is Chris’s story.

“I had been attending regular annual mammograms since I was 50,” said Chris.

“After noticing my inverted nipple in August 2015, I booked a general check-up with my GP, who then referred me for an immediate mammogram.

“On the same day, I had an ultrasound, after which my doctor was still unsure of the results, so I requested a biopsy while I was still there,” Chris said.

The test results revealed Chris was living with a two centimetre lump in her right breast.

“I was shocked, because I had always been such a healthy person. At the time, I was so happy at work, and my family life, and life in general were wonderful.

“To be struck down with the news of breast cancer, was devastating, especially because my son was in his final year of high school, and my husband was in the Middle East at the time,” said Chris.  

Chris was issued a referral to see breast surgeon, Dr Peter Shin at The Breast Clinic at Flinders Medical Centre, Adelaide, and in September, 2014, underwent a lumpectomy and removal of five lymph nodes.                                                   

“Unfortunately, after my first surgery, I was informed that my cancer, which was originally suspected to be only two centimetres in size, was in fact, six centimetres. So I had to quickly undergo a second operation.                                

“After my second surgery, I was told there was still no certainty that all of my breast cancer had been removed. So I chose to have a mastectomy, in order to remove all of the cancer,” Chris said.                 

Over the ensuing 18 weeks post- her mastectomy, Chris completed six sessions of chemotherapy, followed by 40 sessions of radiotherapy, and a daily cancer tablet which she is required to take for the next five-to-10 years.

“I coped really well during my surgery. Unfortunately, my experience with chemotherapy was not as positive.

“I had to stop work because I was too ill during my chemotherapy, and was hospitalised twice because I was violently unwell,” said Chris.

“The most difficult part of my breast cancer treatment was how it impacted on my active lifestyle.

“I love swimming, walking my dog and travelling and despite having the will, I no longer had the puff,” Chris said.

Chris has nonetheless, received overwhelming support from multiple parties.

“Throughout my breast cancer treatment, I’ve received incredible support from my family, friends my amazing oncologist, Dr Meena Okera.

“I’m now on a steady road to recovery and have 10 years remaining of one oestrogen suppressant tablet a day to keep the cancer away,” said Chris.

Chris enthusiastically returned to work on May 18, 2015, and with her oncologist’s blessing, has begun to walk regularly. She also plans to celebrate this Christmas and the New Year in the Middle East with her family.

Chris is an advocate for For Benefit Medicines – Australia’s first for-benefit pharmaceutical company whose purpose is to distribute 100 per cent of profits to local breast cancer patient support and medical research organisations. .

“I think FBM is a great social enterprise. Any organisation that can help breast cancer patients through their treatment while directing 100 per cent of profits to patient support and medical research, is exactly what our country needs.

“Rather than pharmaceutical companies taking, finally there is a ‘for-benefit’ pharmaceutical company that is willing to give back to the community,” Chris said.