Kris Parkinson 46, Australian

“ I was diagnosed while nine weeks pregnant. ”

D uring her first routine appointment with an obstetrician-gynaecologist (ob-gyn) in Sydney, Kris had a routine breast examination that unexpectedly revealed a lump in her left breast. “At the time, I thought it was just a normal part of early pregnancy, and considering I’d had a full health check including a breast exam only five months earlier, I didn’t pay any attention to it,” she says. Her doctor decided it would be safer to have it checked. At first, ultrasound testing came back as inconclusive, so she underwent a shielded mammogram, which again produced normal results. Her doctor, however, advised a further fine-needle biopsy. “I was still not particularly worried,” says Kris, “as I was sure it was just a normal part of my body changing.” When her surgeon called to say that the biopsy had revealed a malignant, high-grade tumour, it was a huge shock. “My first thoughts were for my unborn baby. Then, I wondered how I would break the news to my husband,” she says. “The tumour I was diagnosed with was a triple- negative DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ). I was very lucky that after having 25 lymph nodes removed from under my arm the cancer had been caught early and had not spread outside the breast, but because of the aggressive nature of triple-negative breast tumours I was advised to terminate my pregnancy and then undergo treatment.” Although she tried to bargain with her doctors to continue with her pregnancy and then have a double mastectomy after the baby was born, they advised against it. There was a real risk that she might not survive that long, due to the tumour growing so quickly. Kris then had to make the heart-wrenching decision to terminate her first pregnancy and start treatment to save her life. “I decided not to have the mastectomy, because I simply could not face losing both my baby and my breasts. I chose to have a wide excision lumpectomy followed by four rounds of chemotherapy, and then

six-and-a-half weeks of radiotherapy,” she recalls. Going through chemo, Kris had a lot of mixed feelings. “I knew I’d lose my hair, but wasn’t sure when. After the first treatment I felt tired and sick, and by the third my hair was gone and I had my wig. It cost a fortune, but it made me feel glamorous. My doctor and my oncologist worked closely together and formulated a treatment plan which included surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy together with naturopathic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, meditation and diet. I felt well enough to continue going to work.” Both she and her husband were determined to get over this bump in the road, she says: “We really concentrated on taking care of each other. That said, I’ve always considered myself a very strong person. This experience taught me the importance of facing things head on, because to do anything else is a waste of precious time. “Most importantly, it also showed me that, despite my bravado, it was OK to fall apart and admit I was scared, and to allow myself to be completely vulnerable. Cancer has taught me humility; that it is OK to admit I can’t cope.” Her advice? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. She also believes you have to make sure you feel comfortable and secure with your medical team, as they’ll be by your side on the road ahead. “Listen to your body, and if something doesn’t feel right, say so. You are your own best advocate. When you’re tired, make sure you rest. When you feel well enough, go out for walk or a run, or just sit outside and be present and thankful for each moment.” Despite the trauma of the cancer and losing her baby, Kris has gone on to raise a beautiful family. “Hopefully, by talking about my experience I can help someone who is struggling with the same thing, and let them know that there can be a happy ending to this dark and lonely time,” she says. “I’m now 14 years clear and have had two beautiful children, and every time I look at them I realise how incredibly fortunate I am.”



Made with FlippingBook - Online magazine maker