My duty as a yoga teacher is to teach what I know. This includes many forms of yoga, both on and off the mat.
I choose to share my story because breast cancer was not supposed to happen to someone like me! I have no family history, I am a fit and healthy woman of 44 years young, I’m in a healthy weight range, I eat well and by that mainly unprocessed food, I exercise regularly, and I teach and practice yoga.
I have 3 beautiful children aged 24, 21 and 12. My youngest child was successfully breastfed until he was two years old. I’m married to my husband of 16 years. I have 2 grandchildren from my eldest son who is married to the love of his life. I’m pretty blessed and grateful for what I have in my life.
So how did I come to find out I had breast cancer? I had booked in with a plastic surgeon for a breast augmentation to give myself (and my husband) a gift that will keep giving. On Friday 11th March 2016 whilst at my pre op appointment, I asked my surgeon if I should have a mammogram. Luckily my plastic surgeon did not hesitate in giving me a referral and with that the surgery staff had me booked in at the Wesley Breast Clinic in Brisbane that afternoon.
After over 4 hours of what I though was the most thorough breast examination of my life, which included mammograms, ultra sounds, physical breast examinations and a biopsy, I was sent home that Friday afternoon with the news that I had a suspicious lump.
After a long weekend of trying not to think about it and remain positive, I was advised on Monday 14th March 2016 that it was indeed breast cancer. Luckily for me, this is an early detection of stage 1 breast cancer with a small lump of approximately 13mm.
How did someone like me get breast cancer? Honestly, I cannot answer you. I have wondered if it is due to the stress that I have had in recent years with my diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and anxiety from my years as a forensic police officer. Maybe its because I do too much and don’t know how to slow down (an avoidance technique I’m sure). Maybe I should slow down! Maybe I should do more for myself. Maybe I was exposed to too many chemicals in the years as a forensic officer such as drug labs, fingerprint powder and/or fire scenes. Here’s the thing…no matter what, I know that these “maybes” are useless because honestly, the answer is “I don’t know” and the specialists don’t know either. It could honestly be none of these reasons I listed.
I am not sad or angry. Honestly, I am very, very grateful. I accept this has happened and this allows me to deal with what is in front of me. It is useless to put energy into what might or might not be. In life, I can only deal with what I know. The good news is, its early detection, stage 1 cancer.
On Tuesday 22nd March 2016, I had surgery to remove the small cancer and about 1 cm of tissue around it. The surgeon also removed two lymph nodes, which were detected by using a dye to locate the blood flow from the cancer. A biopsy was done to ensure the cancer had not spread throughout my body. After a week of waiting for the biopsy results it was confirmed stage 1 invasive early stage breast cancer contained to the left breast and no signs of cancer in the 2 lymph nodes removed. The cancer was positive to oestrogen and progesterone hormone receptors, which is the most common type of breast cancer.
On Monday 11th April 2016, I followed up surgery with 6 weeks of radiation treatment for 5 days each week to ensure any cancer cells left behind have been zapped.
Early detection has saved me from having more aggressive treatments such as chemotherapy. I am immensely grateful as I have witnessed the impact of chemotherapy on friends and their supportive loved ones physically, emotionally and psychologically in my life.
On 24th May 2016 I had my last day of radiation therapy (pictured placing my fingerprint on the tree as a finality to the treatment). For those last 6 weeks and 2 days of daily radiation I kept my life going with as much normality as I could such as teaching yoga which is as therapeutic for me as it is for those who come to practice, and spending precious time with my family.
Due to my treatment, I had to reschedule my 300hr yoga teacher training in Rishikesh India. I recently attended and completed this stage of my yoga journey in October 2016. Now that is another blog coming so stay tuned!
Ongoing treatment requires me to take a breast cancer drug, Tamoxifen, which I will likely be on for the next 5-10 years to reduce the chances of the cancer returning. This was a very big decision for me due to the possible side effects of the treatment, however, how could I possibly risk not being there for my loved ones? Being a wife and mother is a gift and a blessing, and one of my duties in this life so I have a responsibility to my health for myself and my family.
I am positively fine now and I am feeling extremely grateful every single day. My left boobie is still a tiny bit tender and larger than my right, however at this stage there will be no breast implants for me now as they can interfere with early detection, which I will be closely monitored for over the next few years.
Due to my recent year, I decided to focus on some serious self-care. I have slowed down my yoga and fitness business to a much slower and less stressful pace. My husband and I reflected on our environment and decided to simplify and move to a smaller more manageable home in an area we adore…Tamborine Mountain in Queensland, Australia. I have always had such as strong pull to this healing mountain since I moved to Brisbane in 1994. I also have absolute faith the universe, God (or whatever you like to call it) is looking after me.
My family and friends have been there for me. We are amazing us humans! We are wired to survive and grow from our experiences, share our stories to provide inspiration and support to others that may need us in these testing times. A positive attitude, which I have obtained through mindfulness based practices and therapy over the last few years, will carry us well and far in life. What I have learned is that not a single one of us has the answer to when we will leave this world or how. My life experiences, both personally and professionally, has guaranteed that is what I have learned. So my advise to anyone who cares to take this on board is do what makes you happy in the now.
Thank you to my husband, Damien, my children Cameron, Jessica and Lachlan, my daughter-in-law Jade, my mother and my parent in-laws as well as my dear extended family and special friends who have travelled this journey with me and remained by my side. That is love! That is what life is about as far as I am concerned.
I have so much to be grateful for!
Ladies and men (men can get breast cancer too), please, don’t think this would not or could not happen to you. That is the point of my story. Self-exam and stay on top of your check-up’s
Please share my story if you feel it may help another.
If you or someone you love would like more information on breast cancer or access to forums, this site has been an endless resource for me https://www.bcna.org.au/