My journey with breast cancer began on August 1st 2016. I was 36 years old, a wife and mother of 2, fit and healthy working as a personal trainer, and 2 months out from completing a full marathon.
I found a lump under my left armpit in 2015 so I visited my GP and had an ultrasound which came back that I had fibroadenoma. My GP asked me to keep an eye on the lump and if it hadn’t disappeared that I would need to come back and see him in 6 months. At this stage, I was not concerned at all and went about my busy life running around after my children, husband and my personal training business.
One night while relaxing, I decided to have a feel around and check my breasts – not something I did consistently. I always thought breast cancer was something older women had to worry about. As I was feeling around I felt a lump in my left breast, a small one, but it was definitely a lump. So I booked myself into see my GP again, he advised me that all was ok, there was nothing to worry about. But for some reason I wasn’t convinced.
After waking up with a sharp pain in the lump under my arm, I made an appointment with a specialist who booked me into surgery to remove the lump. A few weeks later at my follow up appointment with the specialist, he broke the news that I had breast cancer. It rocked my world. I thought ‘who gets breast cancer at 36, I am fit and healthy, I don’t smoke, I hardly drink, I am a healthy weight… I’m doing everything I am supposed to do to live a healthy life’. I was at this appointment on my own, so my surgeon called my husband Chris and asked him to come down to the consulting suite. I remember breaking into a sweat and asking my surgeon if I could go outside for fresh air and wait for Chris. When I saw Chris he knew something was terribly wrong, we embraced and I could feel his heart thumping. I cried in his arms and told him that I had breast cancer.
The days following my diagnosis I felt like I was in slow motion, while the rest of the world was moving forward. At night I would wake up so many times from my sleep and kept wishing it was all a bad nightmare. I didn’t know how to deal with it. I was trying to remain strong, not only for me, but for my family. It was so difficult trying to hide my feelings, emotions, fears and worries from my children and continuing to do all my motherly duties while inside I was a complete mess.
Once we had all the information, Chris and I sat Mariah (10 years old) and Jacob (8 years old) down and told them the news. We reassured them that I was tough and I was going to get through it all. We told them everything we knew and promised not to hide anything from them moving forward. It was so difficult telling the kids and seeing how emotional they got.
On October 14th I had my first chemotherapy. I tried the cold cap in order to keep my hair but after my first session I could not follow through with it. It felt like I had a constant brain freeze and then after the treatment I couldn’t stay warm. I remember even going to bed with my beanie on. By my second treatment I had started to lose my hair. Eventually I lost all the hair on my head, my eyelashes, most of my eyebrows and all the hair on my body. I tried to not look at myself in the mirror because I just did not recognise the person staring back at me. I received 6 months of chemotherapy – 4 FEC, 11 x Taxol and finished at the end of February 2017.
Radiation followed shortly after chemotherapy finished. I had 30 sessions. I had to use the holding of my breath method as the radiation was on my left breast and neck area. Holding my breath ensured that my heart moved a little to the right and it didn’t get any radiation. By the end of radiation I was feeling so fatigued, but grateful that my skin held up and didn’t blister.
Since treatment I have a new zest for life. I am a breast cancer survivor and I am going to live life to the fullest. Breast cancer has changed me but I believe it’s for the better. I no longer sweat the small stuff, I no longer take life for granted. I am grateful for my medical team, my friends and my family who got me through the biggest battle of my life.
“Life is precious and every day is a blessing!”
Show your support to Silvana and other breast cancer sufferers by joining the Carmen’s Woman’s Fun Run on December 2nd 2018, St Kilda.
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