Meet Emma

Emma is a cancer fighter. Although young and a new mum, Emma was first diagnosed in July 2021 with breast cancer. She has shared her struggles in her own words…

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Talking with Emma:

I was VERY lucky and was surrounded by love and support from friends, family and co-workers. I was flooded with flowers, care packages, treats, visits, play dates for my daughter, and general words of encouragement.

My antenatal group organised a meal train, and it was the best thing ever. It took pressure off me (and mostly my husband in the earlier days) so we didn’t have to think about or cook a meal when all I wanted and needed to do was blob on the couch. My friends sent me a brownie cake in the mail which said “To our badass baldy” – that made my day. My workmate also made cupcakes to celebrate me finishing chemo – because I needed to celebrate all the wins along the way.

If you know someone going through it just be there for them. Whether it’s someone to vent to on the bad days or be a cheerleader on the good days. Check in every now and then. Choose something you want to do for them, and just do it (they probably won’t have the capacity or ability to tell you what they need).

Chemotherapy – 6 AC, 10 Paclitaxel
Radiation – 25 sessions

I started losing my hair just under 2 weeks after starting treatment. I had nausea, but the medication I was given kept it reasonably well under control.
The hardest thing was the steroids which – while keeping the nausea at bay, they made me unbelievably hungry. They also made me gain a decent amount of weight (approx. 8kg).
The fatigue was hard and I napped A LOT. I often napped when my toddler did.

The main struggle with Paclitaxel is peripheral neuropathy (tingling/numbness in the hands and feet). I was very lucky and only had it mildly in my feet – but enough that my oncologist stopped my treatment 2 sessions early. I was pretty ok with that as the average is 6-8 sessions, and I got to 10. The fatigue continued throughout this phase too.

My eyebrows and eyelashes thinned but didn’t completely fall out until about 4 weeks AFTER I finished chemotherapy–which was a low blow. The good thing was it timed in with my surgery, so I wasn’t going anywhere anyway.

I am still having radiation, but again, I’ve been pretty lucky; and so far, it’s been mild skin irritation. It is still early days, so I’m not counting my chickens just yet. I still have fatigue which comes and goes – but it’s better than it was with chemo.

Overall, I count myself lucky – being young(ish) and healthy (apart from the whole cancer thing) worked in my favour. My body dealt with the treatment fairly well and “bounced back” quite quickly. The hardest thing throughout all active treatment has been the fatigue.

I’ve had my ups and downs, but I try to focus on the here and now and take one step at a time. This stopped me getting overwhelmed. I also had a busy toddler to keep me busy. I also continued to work (part time) throughout treatment which kept me in routine.

I never thought I would care about losing my hair, but I did. It was a physical reminder to me–and everyone else–that I was sick. On the positive side, I found out I had an ok shaped head and looked alright in a head scarf.

The hardest thing was telling people. I didn’t like upsetting other people. And it’s hard because no one knows what to say (there’s no script for that). I also struggle being centre of attention and accepting help – so that was something I had to get over.

The thing that’s impacting me now is the weight gain, mastectomy, and the brain fog. I have to accept my body shape is different now, and my brain takes a little longer to fire every now and then.

It’s a long process.

I also found out I have the BRCA2 gene. It’s genetic and meant I had 70% chance of having cancer in my lifetime. If I had known, I would have been checking and having surveillance earlier. Unfortunately, it was unknown to my family until now. The great thing is that we know now, and my siblings (and daughter when she is older) can get tested, and monitored if need be – so hopefully no one else will get as far down the cancer track as I have.

I think it’s made me appreciate things more: time with my daughter, family and friends….and not sweat the small stuff. The little things stress me out a lot less than they once did.

Modern science.
Doctors, nurses and medical staff who go above and beyond for their patients.
My family and friends.
The kindness of my work and workmates.

I have felt very loved and supported by everyone around me.

I was 33 when I was diagnosed, with no significant family history of breast cancer. My daughter was just under two and I had stopped breast feeding less than 6 months previously – so everything pointed towards the (significant) lump that I found being a hormonal cyst or blocked duct. I mentioned the lump to my doctor in an appointment for something else, and she was super onto it. Though she said it wasn’t anything I should get worried about yet, she sent me for follow up tests straight away. My cancer was aggressive (which is standard for my age) so it was lucky things progressed so quickly.
I worked at a not-for-profit for 6 years, and we raised money for patients with cancer. I read their stories, interviewed them, and raised money personally {for them} – but never at any point did I think I would be in their shoes.
Breast cancer in those younger than 45 is much more common than many people think, and I really wish awareness was stronger in this age group.

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