Mum of 3, Kathryn Elliott, shares her story of surviving breast cancer to raise awareness for Pink Bun month.
August 21st 2019 began like most other days. My alarm went off at 5.30am. I rolled out of bed and quickly got dressed and out the door to make my regular 6am gym class. I returned home after a quick coffee to jump in the shower and get ready for work. As I rushed up the stairs to the bathroom I noticed my husband and three sons were sitting together having breakfast and I remember feeling happy that they were on track and the morning seemed to be going well. Thanks goodness I thought to myself, this was a calm and positive start to the day, which was not always the case. Ten minutes later my life, our lives changed in an instant.
I undressed, hurriedly throwing my gym gear onto the floor, and jumped in the shower. I had a busy day ahead at work as I was finalising some materials for a health awareness campaign that was being filmed the following day. I planned my outfit in the shower and decided I wouldn’t have time to blow dry my hair, which was fine as it was quite short and would dry pretty quickly on its own. I dried myself and ran into the walk-in robe to pop my undies on.
My mind quickly darted to the next thing and I ran out to grab my earrings from the chest of drawers in our bedroom. This is when I stopped and took a deep breath. Inhale, exhale. I remember thinking to myself “just stop and create some space, there is no need to keep running around madly”. In this moment of reflection I looked to the left and admired the beautiful bone inlay full length mirror I’d just bought. I took a step across and looked in the mirror and stopped to observe my body, something I hadn’t done in ages.
Then it happened, that life changing moment. A shiver came across my body a split second before I noticed the raised skin on top of my right breast. I grabbed it. Tried to stretch it out. Massage it away. Oh Shit. A large, hard lump. My heart skipped a beat, two beats. I gasped for breath, for words, but nothing came. All I could do was scream my husband’s name again and again. In that moment, on that morning at about 8.15am our lives took an unexpected turn.
Two days later, just shy of my 47th birthday, I was diagnosed with locally advanced triple positive breast cancer. As a fit, healthy woman with no family history of breast cancer this was a complete shock that rocked me to the core and I still find it hard to comprehend that only 14 months ago I was oblivious to the major trauma about to hit me and my family.
One of the hardest things to do in those early days, whilst dealing with my own grief and emotions, was communicate the diagnosis to our sons who were aged 14, 13 and 10 at the time. We decided to be honest and open with them regarding all the details of my diagnosis and each of them handled it in different ways. We sought support for the boys from friends, family and their schools, who all played a role in helping them adjust to the new reality.
Breast Cancer Network Australia also provided incredible support, the resources it provided empowered my decisions and listening to the podcast series that has medical professionals and other women sharing their experiences was comforting too. We found our new normal and even joked about “Chemo Thursdays” as a regular in our schedules. I drew a lot of strength and love from ordinary family moments that I’d taken for granted in the past.
It’s hard to believe I’m still in treatment 14 months, later even though the cancer has gone, but with only two more antibody infusions to go the end is in sight. When I started treatment last August there was an incredible energy of support around me and I feel so grateful to have been able to have family and friends attend all my chemotherapy sessions at the hospital, which wouldn’t be possible now due to COVID.
I absolutely feel for those men and women being diagnosed and going through treatment this year and know that I wouldn’t have coped nearly as well if I hadn’t been able to have people sit with me to chat, laugh and keep my spirits high.
The ripple effect of a breast cancer diagnosis filters across so many people in your life, but it is those in your inner circle of family and close friends who are on the emotional rollercoaster with you, day in and day out, often doing it tough without any recognition or acknowledgment themselves. It’s their support, love, care, kindness and understanding that sustains you in those darkest of times. My family and friends protected me with a magical unconditional love that I now feel present in my life every day.
I wouldn’t wish a breast cancer diagnosis on anyone, but it’s definitely changed my life for the better because I don’t take living for granted anymore. Each day feels more precious, the ordinary moments more magical, and life is more purposeful. I feel more open hearted and connected to the people in my life than I ever have.
This year is the 20th anniversary of Bakers Delight’s partnership with Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) and what a year it’s been so far! From 8 October – 28 October 2020 every bakery will generously donate 100 per cent of the sale of the iconic Pink Bun to BCNA.
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