Breast Cancer: What Happened After I was Diagnosed

My Breast Cancer Experience - Bernadine

Shortly after New Year in 2015 I discovered a lump in my left breast.

I wasn’t alarmed and mentioned it to my GP who also said it was probably nothing. However since my mother had breast cancer and a few aunts before her, we thought it best to go for a mammogram to check.

It turned out that lump was indeed breast cancer. I felt numb with shock, but seeing the dismay on my husband’s face helped me decide to be strong for all of us.

I always believed I would not have the same health challenges my Mother suffered, yet here I was dealing with cancer. Having no family support besides my husband and children, all I could think of doing was to phone a good friend who had a cancer diagnosis two years prior.

My friend turned out to be Linda who was a pillar of support and advice. The day after my diagnosis I spent a morning with her asking questions and sharing my fears with her. Linda was so positive, supportive and willing to share personal information that I knew I would strong and get through this.

Bernadine and Linda - Friends and Breast Cancer Cure Supporters
Linda and Bernadine wearing t-shirts from Breast Cancer Cure.

My first priority was to assure my children that I would be there for them as long as I could and would do everything necessary to live a long life. My husband Riaan was and has been amazing through all the challenges and changes and continues to accept and love me.

Because I was the third generation to get breast cancer my team of surgeons agreed that a double mastectomy would be the best way to go, to reduce future risk of cancer.

Living in New Zealand for 8 years meant that I qualified for public healthcare which was a God send. Every day I would be grateful for the decision to immigrate to NZ in 2008 and be in such good hands.

Re-construction started immediately and would take a year to complete. During this process I was referred to the NZ Genetic Screening team who were amazing and agreed to test me for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation because of my family history.

These tests are very expensive and the samples are sent to America for testing. It would take four months for the results to be finalized and again these were positive.

I now know I carry the BRCA 2 gene mutation and that my children will also be tested when they are older. Genetics New Zealand went as far as writing recommendations to Genetic screening in South Africa to get my sister’s tested for the mutation. Had my tests not been covered by our awesome public healthcare system I would never have known that there was potentially more health risks down the line for me, my sisters or children.

Once these results were confirmed my oncology team recommended further surgery in the form of an Oophorectomy which would further reduce my risk of future cancer diagnosis.

I am grateful and happy that I am fully recovered and enjoying life with only a few side effects from ongoing medication to ensure my good health.

Have you been affected by breast cancer? Do you have any advice for women going through the same thing? Or perhaps you have a question for me. Let me know in the comments below.