Pat and her daughter Julie
Being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 74 was the last thing Pat expected. Now she wants to ensure her own children and grandchildren are diligent about their breast health.
The Noble Park resident, now 79, had a regular check-up in 2017 when a lump was discovered in her left breast.
“I was already having regular mammograms for quite some time. When I had the screening, they found cancer in my left breast about the size of my little fingernail,” she said.
“Everybody – my family, friends, neighbours - was so helpful and I had so many offers of people running me to and from appointments that we had to have a roster.”
While her diagnosis was a shock, Pat did have a history of breast cancer in her immediate family.
“My sister Sylvia had very severe breast cancer and it’s been 17 years since she had her first operation. My brother Bill also had breast cancer, and he’s about eight years down the track after his initial diagnosis. Some of my cousins have also had it,” she said.
Pat ended up having two operations to have her cancer cleared, then underwent five days of chemotherapy a week for five weeks.
“When I finished those five weeks, I barely had a week’s break before I started having radiotherapy. That was another five days a week for five weeks. After that, I still had to go back every few weeks for a check-up,” she said.
“The hospital staff were wonderful. You can ask them anything and they will find the answer for you. They certainly looked after me, and I was very grateful and proud of them.
“Now I have a yearly check-up – last year it was by phone – and I am still taking lots of pills. They never give you the ‘all clear’, but rather like to ‘keep an eye on you’.”
Pat and her husband Ian
Pat had a small cancer scare in early 2020 that reminded her of the importance of regular check-ups.
“I got out of the shower, looked in the mirror and noticed my nipples were a strange colour – one was a brown colour and the other was pink. I thought ‘something’s wrong’,” she said.
“I got on the phone to the breast cancer nurse and she told me to come down to get checked. I went and it turned out that’s where the fluid was gathering, and I was all good.”
Pat said she managed her maintain her mental health during treatment by keeping a positive attitude.
“You just have to stay positive and keep telling yourself that you can beat this. Whether it’s mind over matter, I don’t know, but that seemed to work for me. I didn’t stop and I did every treatment. I hope I don’t get it again - but if I do, I will cope again,” she said.
She said losing her hair during chemotherapy treatment “didn’t worry” her.
“My son came over to our house and shaved the last of it off for me. It was more other people who were embarrassed about it than I was. Especially when I was walking through the hospital foyer - I used to stick a hat or beanie on, and as soon as I got to the elevator, I took it off.
“I was offered to be measured for a wig, but since it was summer when I was going through my treatment, it was so hot and I didn’t think I could stand having a wig. I also haven’t had a mastectomy. I was lucky enough that it wasn’t that serious and it didn’t take too much away.”
Pat said she is now encouraging her four children and 10 grandchildren to be vigilant about their health.
“Straight away, my two daughters started going in for mammograms every year. They are very conscious of it, and they are very conscious of their own daughters too,” she said.
Pat, her husband Ian and their 10 grandchildren