7 years since diagnosis
Age at interview: 51
Debbra (51 years old) is self-employed and is currently working reduced hours. She has a 12 year old son who lives with her
Debbra received her first diagnosis for breast cancer in 2008 and in 2013 she learned that it had spread in her body (metastasized). At the time of the interview she had just finished 6 months of chemotherapy. Debbra lost an aunt from another form of cancer. For some reason, Debbra had a gut feeling that she should have her mammogram early. Debbra’s breast cancer, mucinous breast cancer, is unique in the sense that it doesn’t show up as a lump in the mammography. Fortunately, she was screened by a senior ultrasound technician who realized that what she was seeing was different and sent her for more testing. After the diagnosis, Debbra underwent a double mastectomy with a direct reconstruction, followed by chemotherapy. The results of Debbra’s first reconstruction were horrible and she had to have the damage rectified by a second surgeon. During the treatment, she also switched oncologists as she disagreed strongly with her proposed treatment plan. Her second oncologist adjusted the treatment approach which reduced her side-effects. After her treatments were finished, Debbra never really thought about the possibility of recurrence, and it was her physiotherapist who suggested that she have an x-ray when Debbra saw her for back pain. Following further testing, she was told that the breast cancer had spread to several different spots in her body. Debbra’s son was five years old when she was first diagnosed in 2008. At that time she explained her that she had bad cells that had to be taken out. Now, 6 years later, she told him about her new diagnosis and kept it to honest minimal details. One big difference this second time round is that she has learned to open up to people around her and to accept help, and this, together with help from support groups, makes her feel a lot less isolated and in that sense easier for Debbra.
- Alternative and complementary therapies – DebbraCounselling for Debbra is a safe place to speak about some of her worries. She also hopes it will be a 'security blanket' for her son.
- Chemotherapy -DebbraDebbra found another oncologist with the help of a social worker; her experience with chemotherapy improved after that.
- Reconstruction surgery – DebbraThe surgeon would come in, inject Debbra and leave; it was impossible to speak to him.
- Reconstruction surgery – DebbraDebbra describes the variety of prosthetic products.
- Finding and sharing information – DebbraDebbra described some good national resources.
- Relating to health care professionals – DebbraDebbra would show staff the picture of her son to humanize the relationship.
- Relating to health care professionals – DebbraDebbra feels it is possible to disagree with health professionals and communicate that in a polite manner.
- Perspectives on treatment pathways – DebbraDebbra describes moments where she had to fight for care based on her own decisions.
- Testing and diagnosis – DebbraDebbra felt overwhelmed when she was told indirectly that it could be breast cancer.
- First symptoms – DebbraMucinous cancer, such as the kind Debbra was diagnosed with, is rare and difficult to diagnose due to a lack of lump formation.