Back in August 2009, and a close girlfriend of mine had a bit of a scare. That night I got home and I thought, I haven't really done a breast check myself for a while. Did a bit of a check and I found a lump. It was almost like my body told me that it wasn't quite right. So I sort of had a bit of a hot flushes moment I guess. So the next morning booked into my GP and went from there. So I was diagnosed with lobular carcinoma, say lobular breast cancer. Then met with my oncologist Ross Jennens.
He explained to me the process post-surgery. So what sort of treatment I would need to go through. And it was at that point that he suggested that I might be eligible for clinical trials. But he explained the importance of clinical trials, and he explained that without them, the treatments would not improve. It might not benefit me, but it will definitely benefit generations in the future. And given I have a daughter, that was one thing that sort of made me consider the clinical trial. He did explain it in great detail and he gave me time to go away and think about it.
My husband was with me at the time, so we discussed it at length and we just decided that
if there was anything that I could do or we could do as a family to improve outcomes in the future, it was worth doing. From the time of my diagnosis, I had a multidisciplinary team involved. My oncologist and the trial nurse and my breast care nurse, they were so supportive and they made it very relaxed and it wasn't clinical. It was like they were as much a part of the trial as what you were. The trial I was on was called the TEXT trial. So it was to look at whether the overall survival rates on an aromatase inhibitor were better than on the current standard of care, which was Tamoxifen at the time.
So once your placed in a menopause then it was a matter of a daily drug, which was the Exemestane. So a tablet every day for five years. You got to see your doctors every three months, which was great, and the trial nurse and the breast care nurse, so you had such a good support network around you and I could ring them at any stage if I had a concern about anything, you know, a side effect. There were side effects, I'm sure, associated with the drug, and also going into menopause straight away. They all seemed to settle down after about eighteen months.
When you're diagnosed, it's always in the back of your mind you know, there's always that little bit of doubt whether the cancer is going to return. If you're not seeing someone all the time you sort of start to question yourself a bit and and things and I think just having that positive reinforcement all the time really helped me get through my whole journey, not just the trial itself.
Late last year because I was finished on the trial and I was past my five year diagnosis, I had to say goodbye to my oncologist and the whole team in there, and it was actually probably the most emotional I think I've been throughout my whole journey because they became such a part of my life. If there's any way we can get rid of this disease or at least make survival rates better, then that was a really important part of my decision making process.
Breast cancer came from out of the blue for me in 2009.
I actually went with a girlfriend to provide moral support when she had a mammogram and realised that I hadn’t had a check myself.
That night when I arrived home, I did my own breast examination and found a lump.
Over the next several weeks, I went through a rollercoaster of emotions as various tests were carried out. But the worst part was telling my husband and my kids.
By talking with friends and other families, we soon came to realise just how many people are affected by breast cancer. But knowing that there was support out there, did provide some comfort for my family.
Through speaking with my doctor and other women diagnosed with breast cancer, I know the improvements that have occurred in treatments in just the last 5 to 10 years alone.
So I decided to participate in a clinical trial to not only help women today but to also help future generations. I would never want my kids to have to go through what I did.
Breast cancer clinical trials have improved survival rates by more than 20% in the last 20 years and I know that I have benefited from the contribution of women who have participated in clinical trials before me.
It does feel good to know that our collective involvement can make a significant impact. It also helped me turn what was a negative experience into one where I am helping others. In my experience, there are a lot of supportive girlfriends out there!
This year, 42 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer every day in Australia. It’s a sobering statistic and clearly demonstrates why we need to continue clinical trials research into the future.
I hope that through my participation, and the participation of thousands of women across Australia, we can help improve outcomes for women affected by breast cancer.