Navigating life after cancer – Kate share’s her story

Icon Writer / 16 Sep, 2023

Turning 40 is a time to celebrate for most people.

For Adelaide resident Kate, the milestone birthday in March 2023 was marked with a session of radiation therapy. Kate was diagnosed with stage 2 triple negative breast cancer in July 2022.

The mother-of-three was on maternity leave following the birth of her youngest son, Archie. For Kate and her husband Daniel, who are also parents to seven-year-old Olive and ten-year-old Leo, what followed was a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

“Archie was six months old when I found the lump in my right breast. I was still breastfeeding, and I believe that helped me find the lump. I’m not overly in tune with my body and I’m someone who generally thinks, “It’ll be right.” After breastfeeding Archie one night, I was lying in bed and my breasts were drained. I felt the lump and thought it was a blocked duct. But in my gut, I knew it didn’t seem right. I went to see my doctor the next day. My doctor did an examination and couldn’t feel the lump. I don’t think she thought much of it but she did the right thing and referred me to have scans. The following day I had a mammogram, ultrasound and a biopsy,” says Kate.

On the day she received the news that the scans and tests had confirmed Kate had breast cancer, the family were due to fly to Darwin for a family holiday.

“I got the call at 3pm as I was picking up the children from school. I’d prepared myself for the bad news, but it’s still a shock to hear (you have cancer). My doctor advised me to go on our holiday to Darwin. That was an interesting holiday to say the least. But I needed my children to enjoy the time away, as I knew we were going to have some rough times ahead. There were a lot of tears and I was petrified, but it was the right thing to do for the children,” says Kate.

When the family returned to Adelaide, Kate’s extensive support network of family and friends rallied around her, Daniel and the children.

“My family and friends started researching the best cancer specialists to see. I have an amazing network of family and friends. My cancer diagnosis is a first in our family. We’ve been so fortunate not to have cancer touch our immediate family and friend group, so this was all new to us. My parents went into parenting mode and were on hand to help every step of the way. My siblings and closest friends were also amazing. Having so much support around me was a godsend,” says Kate.

Kate commenced five months of chemotherapy in August 2022 and finished just in time to celebrate Christmas 2022 with her nearest and dearest.

In January she underwent a partial mastectomy. This was followed by four weeks of radiation therapy at Icon Cancer Centre Windsor Gardens, under the care of radiation oncologist, Dr Scott Carruthers.

“I’ve always been an active person, going to the gym and playing sport. I was worried about not being able to exercise, for the sake of my mental health. But I was still able to go to the gym while I was having treatment. That really helped and I’m thankful that I was well enough to be able to do that,” says Kate.

With her treatment behind her, Kate is planning a trip to Bali for belated 40th birthday celebrations with her family and friends. She has also returned to her job as a local community centre co-ordinator. She says while she is looking forward to focussing on things other than cancer, she knows navigating life post-treatment isn’t easy.

“I see a psychologist. I started seeing a psychologist when I was first diagnosed. She warned me that the hard part is post treatment, trying to get myself back to a sense of normality. I’m still trying to discover what that means for me and what life after cancer looks like for me. I’m certainly more grateful for the things I have in life. I have a supportive husband and three beautiful children. I’m grateful for my family and friends who supported me every step of the way. And the amazing medical team who got me through treatment. I know I will come out of this more resilient than I was before,” say Kate.

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