51-year-old Carmel was diagnosed with breast cancer in December of 2019, after finding a suspicious lump in her breast while on an overseas trip for three weeks with her girlfriends in New York and Hawaii.
“I was trying on a cossie in Hawaii for the first time in a long time and noticed a lump that didn’t feel right. It seemed like it was on the inside behind my nipple, whereas I always checked the outside for lumps during self-examinations. I knew I was overdue for a mammogram, but didn’t think a great deal of it while I was away. When I got back I visited my GP who immediately referred me to get it checked out, and a week later I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer,” Carmel said.
Although the news came as a shock, Carmel tried to focus on staying positive to get her through the treatment ahead.
“My husband wasn’t with me at the time and it was pretty emotional telling him, but he was really supportive. I like to think I’m a positive person and tried not to let the diagnosis spiral me down. It’s hard not to wonder about what will lay ahead. I told myself to pull up my bootstraps and do what the experts tell me to do in terms of treatment.”
Carmel chose to wait to start treatment and share the news with extended family and friends until after the Christmas period. She went on to receive six months of chemotherapy this year during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by a mastectomy and five weeks of radiation therapy treatment at Icon Cancer Centre Wahroonga, located within the Sydney Adventist Hospital.
She says although her treatment has been delivered primarily during the COVID-19 pandemic, the precautions she took, and those that were put in place at Icon Wahroonga, meant she really didn’t have to worry at all.
“I did everything I possibly could to keep safe, from isolating and wearing a mask to keeping hand sanitiser readily available. I was confident in the precautions that the centre was putting in place. There was no point that I ever felt like I should avoid going to the centre for my treatment due to the risk of COVID-19. My health took priority.”
“I’m very thankful that I could still have Zoom and Skype meetings with friends and family. I was also lucky to have my husband and son at home through it all, and my step-son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren who live downstairs. It meant I wasn’t completely cut off from everyone despite the pandemic.”