I just wanted to take a moment to share a story of strength and courage. Melissa has recently come into our online membership through our karmic
invitation. What that means is, Intrinsic Mind Wellness each and every month offers a free service for people that really need it.
Here is Michelles Story! This is a reminder to be grateful everyday for the small things in life.
Where do I even begin! Four months ago, my life changed forever. I turned 40 in August, completed a 4-year Bachelor of Health Science in Naturopathy end of Sept (which actually took me 5 years to complete in amongst work, and raising my family), and set off
on a family holiday early October to celebrate.
Who would have thought that holiday would have been such a precious time away with my family, a time when I was well and there was no concerns about what the future of our lives.
Let’s go back about 18months. I was breastfeeding my son at the time and noticed an odd feeling in my right breast. It wasn’t a lump by any means but the tissue closes to the nipple just felt a little strange.
I remember showing my husband but then thinking it was just a blocked milk duct or something related to feeding and completely forgot about it. At no point did I even consider that it may be anything more.
Now fast forward back to holiday time. I’m not sure what I was doing or what made me think about this little spot again but perhaps just being in a relaxed environment, in and out of bathing suits really just enjoying the freedom of life I happened to feel
Immediately I told my husband and popped online to make an appointment with my GP upon our return. It hadn’t really changed size or shape but it just didn’t feel normal.
We enjoyed another week or so away but upon our return our lives changed forever. We got home on a Friday and Sat morning I had an appointment. My doctor did a breast exam and sent me off for further investigation.
I was actually meant to go away for business on Monday and nearly put off my scan but decided to postpone my trip and get the scans out of the way. On Wednesday I had a mammogram and ultrasound. The sonographer couldn’t find anything and actually had to ask
me what I was feeling. She felt where I showed her and agreed that something was a little strange.
I was somewhat relieved at this moment and remember thinking to myself “phew, she can’t see anything it must be nothing.” I then had the ultrasound and everything changed. They kept looking over particular areas and talking amongst each other and then took 3
fine needle biopsies and 1 core biopsy.
I remember asking the doctor if it would be okay for me to fly as I was meant to depart the next morning for business. The doctors and nurses couldn’t really give me a straight answer.
They told me that technically I could fly but I may be in pain. It was almost as though they were hinting that I should stick around, something just didn’t seem right. Of course, they couldn’t tell me at this stage what they had found but the energy in the
air just didn’t feel right.
I decided to cancel my trip and wait for the results. I had a phone appointment organised the following day with my GP to discuss the results in the afternoon. The next morning, around 10am I had a call from my GP asking me if I could pick up the scans and
instead of the phone consult if I could come to see her at 1pm. I knew this wasn’t a good sign.
The next 3 hours seemed like the longest hours of my life! Terrified for the news I was about to be given, my husband and I headed off to the appointment. As I sat in the waiting area, I remember there being a terribly scary movie on but when I turned my
head away the bulletin board was covered in “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” messages. All I could think was “how could this be happening to me”
My doctor called us in, I sat down and she looked at me and said “Melissa, I’m so sorry to tell you but you have breast cancer” I broke down. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t process anything she was saying. All I could think about were my babies. How was I
going to tell my babies their mom was sick with cancer?
Matt and I decided to tell the kids that mommy was sick. We felt at the time COVID was enough for them to process let alone the fear of cancer. We sat with our two oldest as my son was only 2 at the time and still today has no idea what’s going on, and I
began by saying “Girls, we need to tell you something.” Mavis my 7-year-old immediately started panicking “Mommy, you’re not sick, are you?” “Yes, honey I am” I replied. She broke down in tears, we all broke down in tears.
Indigo, my eldest (10years) stepped in to console her sister and referred to a scenario at school where one of their teachers had been off with breast cancer but now, she was okay. I looked to the girls and said “yes, and mommy’s situation is the same I have
breast cancer.” I hugged my babies and tried to comfort them and hold them as close as I could.
Telling your 10- and 7-year-old you have breast cancer while my 2-year-old sat at my feet playing with his trucks happily on the floor was the hardest things I have ever had to do. That night, the girls snuggled in my bed and for a number of nights to follow
we all cried together and stayed with each other to let the news settle in and ground ourselves.
A week later I had an appointment with the surgical oncologist to assess the situation. I remember sitting in the waiting room so scared trying to hold myself together but the tears wouldn’t stop. A lovely nurse came out and brought Matt (my husband) and I
to her office. She was so lovely and calmed me down.
She shared some lovely stories of other moms she has worked with and told me I wasn’t alone. We were then called into the surgeon’s office. He explained in further detail what the scans showed.
As it turned out, I had multiple tumours in my right breast. Of course, one of the tumours had tested positive to a particular protein (HER-2- only 20% of cancers test positive to this!) which meant the cancer was extremely aggressive and I would require
chemotherapy and antigen therapy prior to surgery.
The good news was the tumours were all relatively small and had not spread to the lymph, at least they didn’t think so but here’s the scary part – the surgeon did a full breast exam on me and couldn’t feel any of the lumps.
He told me that if he were just doing a regular breast examination on someone, he would have passed me off as being normal! That’s right, I had just been told that I had 3 tumours one of which was extremely aggressive yet he couldn’t feel them! On top of
this, I literally have no boobs!!! To this day, I have no idea where they are hiding out.
We have been fully transparent with the girls, family and friends. When I started to lose my hair, I didn’t want the girls to feel scared so I thought I would involve them in the process and we could have a few laughs so I gave them both a pair of scissors
and they cut off all my hair. We had a blast and they did a great job!
This kind of normalised me not having hair and the start of what was to come. I bought a few different hats to cover my head but haven’t worn them. Instead, I walk around proud to be here.
I won’t lie treatment has been tough and my mental health and wellbeing has been challenged. Cancer is scary and it’s really hard not to let your mind wonder off into the darkness. It is hard not to think about life without me here and what that looks like
for my husband and our kids. I don’t want them to live our life without me in it. I refuse to let that happen.
The good news is, despite a few delays, I have had a great response to treatment. I am doing okay; we are all doing okay. There are plenty of tears and scary times but I just keep reminding myself that I have to beat this! My kids need their mom, my husband
needs his wife and my friends and family need me in their lives.
My family and friends have been incredible and I have crossed path with some pretty incredible people who have been able to pick me up and help me find my way. For this, I am so grateful.
I still have a bit of a journey ahead with still a few rounds of treatment followed by a double mastectomy, 12 months of further treatment and then long-term hormone treatment but I will be fine, we will be fine.
Every day, I am thankful for everything and everyone that surrounds me. I know I am not alone and I am constantly reminding myself that it’s okay to be both vulnerable and strong across the day.
Some moments will be harder than the next but this bump in the road is only temporary and while I may live with cancer for the rest of my life, I refuse to let cancer control my life.
Thank you for letting me share my story.