80-year-old Warrnambool local Rita Leddin feels very fortunate to have received a breast cancer diagnosis when she did. When Rita turned 70 she was told she wouldn’t need to worry about mammograms anymore, and to only book one if and when she wanted for peace of mind. After receiving a final mammogram in her mid-70s, she went another two years without giving breast screening a second thought.
It was after her sister-in-law was diagnosed with cancer in both of her breasts that Rita wondered whether she should get her breasts checked as a precaution.
“I went to see her while she was in the hospital following surgery and she asked if I had received a mammogram lately. Of course I told her the truth. She said don’t be crazy – go and get one!”
After getting a mammogram, Rita received an unexpected call and was told she would need to go back to Geelong to speak with a doctor.
“I got the shock of my life getting the call to return to Geelong. I tried to think positively and that plenty of people probably get similar calls which turn out to be nothing, but when I walked in the room there was my breast up on the wall with a big cross on it. I said I hope that breast isn’t mine, but it was – I had breast cancer.”
Just one week later, in February of 2020, Rita underwent surgery to remove the lump in her breast and went on to receive five weeks of radiation therapy at Icon Cancer Centre Warrnambool. She says being told the cancer wasn’t at a serious stage and could be treated was a relief, but that beginning radiation therapy treatment was very daunting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At this time COVID-19 had entered the world and we didn’t know what was going to happen, but I was thankful for the lovely team at Icon. I was the lucky one. I didn’t need surgery to remove my breast, just a lumpectomy and radiation therapy.”