Becoming a breast cancer advocate

Icon Writers / 27 Oct, 2020

Young mum Amy shares her advice on getting through a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment

Single mum of two young children Amy Boyd was just 38-years-old when she was told the devastating news that would change her life forever. Her journey started on the 14th of November 2019, when she first found a lump in her breast.

“I was sitting on the couch and happened to lean on my left side and by chance felt a lump in my left breast. I assumed it was just a cyst, but thought it would be important to get checked out.”

After receiving an ultrasound, Amy was reassured that the lump was only an enlarged lymph node and nothing to worry about. However in her gut she felt something wasn’t right, an instinct her GP agreed with.

“My GP wasn’t happy and could also feel an enlarged lump under my armpit. I went to get another ultrasound and this time I knew things weren’t looking great after five people rushed into the room.”

Following a biopsy and mammogram, Amy was visiting her GP on her lunch break when her worst fears were confirmed – she had triple-positive invasive breast cancer.

“I haven’t been back to work since that appointment. It was a really scary time. You don’t think you’re going to be 38 with breast cancer. I was fit, happy and healthy, going to CrossFit five times a week. I didn’t even feel slightly unwell. The diagnosis was truly devastating.

Amy began six rounds of chemotherapy treatment straight away, which in her words was a “really rubbish Christmas present”. After finishing chemotherapy in April, she underwent a bilateral mastectomy and chose to receive five weeks of radiation therapy treatment locally at Icon Cancer Centre Rockingham with the support of a McGrath Foundation Breast Cancer Nurse.

“I did a lot of research and spoke to a McGrath nurse, who recommended Icon Rockingham. I would have had to travel more than double the distance to receive care from the public hospital. Having radiation therapy treatment available close to home has been the best thing ever.”

“I loved my experience at Icon. I felt like I wasn’t just a number, the staff became friends and would say ‘Hi Amy’ every time I came in. I got to choose songs to listen to during my radiation everyday; it was such a positive experience for me that I was sad to leave when I finished treatment.”

Amy was also able to use the Deep Inspiration Breath Hold (DIBH) technique during treatment which gave her peace of mind. DIBH is a technique used for left and right-sided breast cancer patients that reduces the potential impact on the heart from radiation during treatment. The process involves the patient holding their breath for short bursts during treatment, which allows the heart to move further away from the radiation.

This year alone, Amy has gone to 115 appointments (and counting) as part of her treatment. As a single mum of 9-year-old Knox and 6-year-old Eva, Amy says the experience of receiving cancer treatment, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, was made even more overwhelming.

“After a cancer diagnosis, you lose control. When I went to hospital during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, my family weren’t able to visit me and I wasn’t allowed to see my children for 15 days. Experiences like that were the most difficult part. Telling my kids that I had cancer was really hard, but throughout my treatment they have never once looked at me differently. Eva wants to be a nurse like me and would help moisturise my radiation burns.”

“It was absolutely a source of comfort that I could prevent any damage to my heart and lungs. After speaking to my radiation oncologist and doing some further research, I really understood the importance of DIBH. The process of holding my breath was easy after I learned the pattern.”

“Asking for help can be a bruise to the ego, but I’m so thankful for my friends and family who have supported me through it all. I had my birthday during lockdown and my friends all organised a drive-by to celebrate. It ended up being a convoy of 26 people who were cheering for me and throwing presents out of the window. I cried happy tears the whole time. I think during such a difficult time everyone has to rally together and support each other.”

Amy says her passion for exercise also made a big difference.

“Fitness really helped my mental and physical wellbeing. I’ve tried to exercise every day and keep everything as normal as possible. Everyone at CrossFit have been so amazing, they are like family and even did a fundraising day for me!”

Throughout her treatment Amy was able to connect with fellow breast cancer patients by sharing her journey on her blog called Kick It In The Tits. Originally created to update her friends and family on her diagnosis and treatment, the blog has gained a strong following from breast cancer patients and focuses on normalising cancer and its treatment.

“I tried to go to a support group in Mandurah but everyone there was over the age of 65. I have young children, we’re at a different stage in our lives. The best therapy for me has been talking to women in similar situations. I posted on my blog when I was in hospital after my mastectomy and a follower commented that she was there as well. I managed to find her in the hospital and we hung out together! It was such a meaningful experience.”

“I think it’s really important to shine a light on what happens during treatment, from posting photos of the realities of side effects to providing a platform for other breast cancer patients to learn from what I’ve experienced. I didn’t realise how far it’s travelled or the impact it has on people, but a lot of breast cancer patients have found it from other pages and now comment with their own experiences.”

Now halfway through her next round of chemotherapy treatment, Amy is looking forward to finishing active treatment in March next year and then celebrating her 40th birthday. She urges young women with breast cancer to take charge of their health and be an advocate for themselves and others.

“Make sure you ask questions and keep looking for the support you need. Go on social media and find like-minded people who are going through a similar experience or get in contact with a nurse from the McGrath Foundation. If you need a sounding board, these people are very good at that. If you’re a mum, there’s also a wonderful organisation called Mummy’s Wish.”

“There are so many amazing support services available.”

To follow Amy’s journey with breast cancer, you can visit her Facebook page Kick It In The Tits.

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