Finding good schools for her kids, enjoying the beachside lifestyle, and looking for new career opportunities – these were the things at the front of Wendy’s mind when she moved her family of five from Adelaide to Mooloolaba 15 years ago. Just six months later, Wendy was diagnosed with breast cancer.
The moment time stands still
August 2008 was the first time I got diagnosed with stage three triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma.
It was one of those moments when times appears to stand still.
Your brain tries to comprehend what is going on. At first, it goes blank, and you feel numb. And then you think, “Oh my god, this is really happening to me.”
At that moment, our hopes and plans for a new lifestyle were taken away. I had only read about those stories, and now I was about to enter one.
How would we manage up here, in this new town?
What would we do without family nearby to support us?
How would my kids and husband cope?
I didn’t know who to talk to, where to go, or what to do first. I just told myself, “We can do this.”
Getting through treatment together
Once you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, you have to get treatment quickly.
I had to pause and remind myself how lucky we were to be in Mooloolaba, because everything I would need for treatment was at our doorstep and we didn’t have to travel far.
First, I had a lumpectomy. Then, I was back in again to have 23 lymph nodes taken out of my left arm. After that, I had another big lump taken out. And then I started six months of chemo, followed by six weeks of radiation.
It was during this time that I rang Cancer Council Queensland. They were good listeners. They understood what I was going through and gave me tools to help me cope. They introduced me to the My Journey diary, and I did the Look Good Feel Good day program where they taught me how to put a wig on and apply makeup for my eyebrows.
It was comforting to know they were always only a phone call away, ready to give advice and answer my questions.
Devastating news triggers a life changing decision
Once my initial treatment was over, I made a goal to just get to the five-year mark cancer-free. When, at my five-year mammogram and ultrasound, they found another lump, we were gutted.
It was then and there that I made the life-changing decision to have a double mastectomy, followed by more chemotherapy.
As strange as it may sound, it was the best decision I ever made. I never even wanted a reconstruction. I am 48 years old; I have three children and an amazing husband who is my rock, we have been married for 32 years! I don’t need to have boobs to fulfill my life!
Life after cancer means paying it forward
Cancer has changed me for the better in so many ways. Too many take life for granted. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. That’s why I am paying it forward and helping others in the same situation.
Five years ago, I signed up to become a Cancer Council Queensland volunteer, offering peer support over the phone to ladies who are going through a mastectomy. It is always so powerful to just listen to others who are going through the same journey I went on, to give them hope and strength.
I want to share my story and do motivational speaking to not just cancer survivors, but all people who don’t know there is life after cancer.
My third chance at life
Having breast cancer has given me so many opportunities to grow and become the best version of myself!
It has taught me to remain positive. It has taught me the true value of family and friendship. But most importantly, it has taught me that life is so precious, to live your life now, as you never know how long we have.
This is my third chance at life, and I am not holding back. I’m living life and it feels good!