Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Breast Cancer Awareness Month- Ashton's Story

Ashton's family (L to R): Ashton, Suzannah (Mum),
Ciara (Sister), Mark (Dad)
I remember exactly the day my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer.

It was the last week of school for the year (I was in year 9 at the time).The majority of my friends were in Canberra for a school trip (one that I really wanted to go on but wasn’t chosen for) and I was eagerly anticipating the start to the summer holidays. We had a family holiday booked to Melbourne for Christmas and that had pretty much kept me going for the whole school term.

Mum had gone for a breast biopsy a few weeks beforehand and I knew that we were anticipating the results any day. The day we found out, Mum, Ciara (my sister) and I were supposed to go shopping for blinds for our new living room (Mum and Dad were in the process of renovating our lounge room and we were completing the finishing touches!).

As I walked out of school and saw my Dad in the driver’s seat of our shiny Toyota Camry, I knew straight away that it wasn’t good news. My heart started pumping like I was in the middle of a 50km run. It was then followed by me asking my Dad all the way home an abundance of questions as to ‘why we weren’t going blinds shopping’ and ‘where is mum’?

When I entered the house and saw mum in tears and her face a shade of red, it only reinforced my gut instinct further.

“I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s in the early stages, so it’s been caught early which is the best outcome,” she said.

I didn’t stop crying that whole afternoon. Actually, I didn’t stop crying that whole week. It was the most gut-wrenching thing that I had heard in my life. What made it worse was facing everyone at school for the next week, especially when everyone was asking if I was ok as I was always upset!

Over the next few months, Mum went through various different operations. Our trip to Melbourne was put off to make way for Mum’s surgery. I was upset about it at the time, but I knew that it was better off for Mum’s health.  In the end, Mum ended up having a mastectomy and breast reconstruction on the affected side. She then got the other side done the next year. It was the best option possible for the long run.

Living in the country (I grew up I Geraldton), it made matters hard for us a family as Mum had to be down in Perth for her check ups and operations. This meant that Mum was often away for many weeks at a time. Mum is my best mate, so to be away from her for long periods of time (and while I was at school at the same time) was a very difficult thing to go through at that age.

A few years later, my grandmother (my Mum’s mum) was also diagnosed with breast cancer. This was soon after followed by both Mum and myself being diagnosed with a very rare condition called Cowden’s Syndrome where some of your cells keep multiplying and you grow various tumours and lumps. Most, thankfully, are benign but people with Cowden’s Syndrome are at a greater risk of certain forms of cancer including breast, thyroid, uterus and kidney cancers. According to statistics, someone with Cowden Syndrome has a 65% chance of getting breast cancer. This fact further reinforced my desire to not only create awareness of this rare condition but also of breast cancer.

Mum has been in remission for almost 3years and has been fighting fit ever since. Having had Mum and Nanna go through breast cancer has taught me to live life every day to the fullest and to take action to protect myself. I regularly check my breasts and see a doctor once a year for a check-up. I’m doing the right things to be on to any challenge that comes my way.


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