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Patient stories

Christel’s battle with breast cancer

Like many of the young women diagnosed with breast cancer, 37-year-old Christel was taken completely by surprise.

‘I’d found a lump but convinced myself it was nothing. I just happened to be at the shopping centre with my mum and my daughter, so I thought I’d pop into my GP and just get it checked.’

Rather than the reassurance she’d hoped for, Christel was sent immediately off for a mammogram and ultrasound, which resulted in a biopsy and confirmed not only that she had breast cancer, but that it was aggressive.

‘I was standing outside the bakery, about to buy a pie and the telephone rang. They told me I had breast cancer, and I should book in with a surgeon straight away.’

‘To say it was hard doesn’t capture it. It was devastating.’

Christel immediately underwent a lumpectomy to determine the type and stage of her breast cancer as the biopsy did not indicate that. The pathology results found that she had a less common type of breast cancer called triple negative. She immediately commenced chemotherapy and was faced with many questions and conflicting stories surrounding what was to follow.

‘The breast care nurse really helped me to understand and make an informed decision. It was very hard, but she walked me through the options in a language I could understand.’

Christel was faced with a difficult decision during Chemotherapy, having to decide to either undergo a mastectomy or proceed with radiotherapy to reduce the risk of her tumour returning. It was a gruelling decision, but one she now feels a year later was the right one. ‘I’m so thankful for the support.’

Since Christel was diagnosed with breast cancer, she has undergone 16 rounds of chemotherapy and seven weeks of radiotherapy.

Throughout all of it, her thoughts were of her husband and seven-year-old daughter, Emma. To say telling her daughter was difficult is an understatement: ‘It was the hardest thing I have ever done, it was traumatic for us all.’

‘I told her Mummy can fight this.’

Christel never wants Emma to experience breast cancer. She believes research is the key to making this possible.

‘The importance of fundraising is to help find a cure—that and the support from Mater Chicks in Pink. For me, it’s been invaluable.’

Christel’s breast care nurse helped her make the difficult decision between radiotherapy and a mastectomy. They also helped Emma understand what her mum was going through.

‘There was a book and little trinkets that they gave to Emma. These provided a positive input during a difficult time.’

Christel faced many difficult moments throughout her journey, from the shock of diagnoses to the heartbreak of having her daughter experience her cancer.

‘I went from being a fulltime working mum, to a cancer patient. Emma went from a naive 6 year old, to a very grown up 7 year old.’

Throughout it all the support she received was something she was so grateful for.

‘Sally and the Chicks in Pink were incredible. They were so supportive and they really helped Emma to understand what I was going through.’

She’s also been amazed at her own strength and ability to pull through: ‘I went from not knowing if I could do this to “wow, I’ve done this”, look how strong I am and how amazing my family is.’

In most cases, the exact cause of cancer is unknown. Cancer is much like a puzzle, but we don’t know the final picture, how to get there, or sometimes even where to start.

But Dr Felicity Davis head of the Breast Physiology and Cancer Group at Mater Research, is trying to unlock the mysteries of breast cancer and find those elusive edge pieces to create the border of the puzzle.

Dr Davis and her team are taking the unique approach that cancer should not be pigeonholed and studied as a separate biological entity, but instead considered a ‘broken-normal’.

If we can understand how cells grow, die and resist death in a normal breast we might be able to gain new insights into how to treat breast cancer in the future.

Thanks to the support of donors like you, Mater is able to fund exciting and ground breaking research directions such as this one.

Show your support for this vital medical research by purchasing your Mater Prize Home lottery tickets today.

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