It was Monday 27 August 2012 that I had an appointment for a mammogram after finding a lump in my left breast. When I first heard the breast cancer diagnosis, it was as if the earth had stopped spinning on its axis for that split second. Inside me, at the core of my being, a volcano erupted. The one thought that immediately crossed my mind was ‘what about my children and family?’. It was as if I wanted to do so much in such a short amount of time. I felt positive though, I had this guts to fight this! I was diagnosed with invasive, oestrogen-receptor-positive, premenopausal breast cancer. My oncologist and surgeon immediately got to work on my treatment plan. Doctors prescribe more aggressive treatments for premenopausal women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer as the cancer is more aggressive. My treatment plan consisted of six sessions of chemotherapy over a period of six months prior to surgery to shrink the tumour and contain the cancer. The first four chemotherapy sessions over four months consisted of an Adriamycin Cytoxan chemotherapy cocktail mix, also known as the ‘red devil’ because it is red in colour and extremely toxic. This was followed by two sessions of Taxol chemotherapy over two months, every 22 days. After two red devil chemotherapy sessions, I lost my hair. My side effects consisted of, but weren’t limited to hair loss, short-term memory loss, nausea, loss of appetite, bone and muscle pain, loss of sleep, sweats, mouth sores, loss of the sense of taste for the first two weeks after chemotherapy and a heightened sense of smell. I wore a wig to functions, bandannas now and then but often went bald. I knew that I had to go through it to fight it and walked with my head held high. Just like when you are pregnant you have ‘porridge brain’, when you have chemotherapy you have mental cloudiness which is often called ‘chemo brain’. Symptoms of chemo brain include difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, trouble multi-tasking, slower thought processing, and difficulty finding words at times. I was given anti-nausea pills called Emend. During chemo, Emend was also given via the IV to deal with my nausea. My prescription contained two pills, one for the first and one for the second day after chemo. I would also take 16 cortisone tablets three times a day for two days amounting to 96 tablets prior to my chemotherapy. The chemotherapy also put me into full menopause in order to keep my oestrogen levels low. My family had a roster of who would attend the chemotherapy sessions with me. I used to have my chemotherapy session and then stay at home for four days afterwards to stabilise and then return to work until the next chemotherapy session. This went on for six months. It was my family, friends and colleagues who kept my spirits high and carried me to the finish line. You could say that they were my anchor while I was out at sea. Up until Thursday, 8 February 2013, my treatment plan was on track and the chemotherapy was agreeing with my body. On 8 February I was attending a training session at work and feeling absolutely fine, but just before lunch I started feeling really sick, light-headed with a migraine and nausea. I could not quite comprehend what was said to me, as if my head was in a bubble. I recall excusing myself from the training session, packing up and going home. On the way I called my oncologist, who advised me to go for a blood test to check the count. I was too sick on the Friday, stayed home and slept and went for my blood tests on the Saturday morning first thing. On Monday 11 February 2013 it was my 37th birthday. On my way to work my phone rang. It was one of the sisters from GVI Oncology to say that my white blood cell count was extremely low and that I could not go into the office as I was susceptible to infection. I also could not have chemotherapy until the blood count was up again. I went home and we were very strict with who visited and asked those who were sick to kindly not visit as my immune system was not strong enough. My kids were extremely happy as they could have the cake I had planned to take to work all to themselves. I was given Neupogen injections, which were injected by my husband under my skin on my stomach, to boost my white blood cell count in order to help fight any infections with chemotherapy. This injection caused some bone pain which does not respond to normal painkillers. After the third day, I again went for blood tests and my white blood cell count was high enough to continue with chemotherapy. On completion of my chemotherapy, I was told that my surgery would take place on 5 April 2013. On that day, I arrived at ICU at 06:00 in the morning for a 17-hour surgery. I had a double mastectomy and deep flap reconstruction, a complicated microscopic surgery. The surgeon was able to remove all the cancer in my left breast and confirmed that there was no cancer in my right breast, which also had to be removed for preventative reasons. While operating, the surgeon had found cancer in one of the axillary lymph nodes, which was not found during the initial diagnosis biopsy. They removed two axillary lymph nodes. A couple of hours after coming out of the theatre room I was rushed back into theatre as I had a blood clot which needed to be removed. I asked the doctors and nurses in my unconscious state of mind not to inform my family and burden them with additional worry. My doctor signed the indemnity form on my behalf. My vital signs on the second day after surgery were extremely low and I had no option but to have a blood transfusion. The blood transfusion was really difficult for me to accept and I requested the ICU nursing staff to get my surgeon on the phone for clarity and reassurance that I had no other option. On the fourth day it was baby steps in getting out of bed and trying to walk with the assistance of a physiotherapist. It was quite a task with two drains and a couple of machines connected to me. I was in ICU for three days. Of those three days I can only remember clearly from the third day. They then moved me from ICU to the surgery ward for observation. I could only leave the hospital after the drains were removed, I could walk properly and my vital signs were 100%. During my hospital stay, I had many visitors; again my family were there all the time. I hear often how the day I was in surgery was a trying time for many due to the amount of hours that I was in theatre. After two days in the surgery ward, I was discharged. It felt so good to be home again and spending time with my children. We had to set up a temporary bedroom downstairs at home as there was no way of me walking up and down stairs at this point. For six weeks I was at home, recovering. After the six weeks, I began with 28 sessions of radiation, one session every day from Monday to Friday for 28 days. The radiation was a lot easier than the chemo. I would go every morning before work. My radiation was stopped two sessions prior to the planned date due to my armpit skin splitting from the radiation. I then took a week’s break and commenced with my last two sessions as it is best to complete the treatment plan to eliminate reoccurrence of the cancer. Once radiation was complete, I needed to go for many sessions of physiotherapy as I could not lift my left arm due to the removal of the axillary lymph node and the radiation. I also proceeded to have preventative treatment because my breast cancer had been hormone receptive and the risk of reoccurrence was very high. I had a hysterectomy in September 2013. I am currently on preventative medication, namely Neopheden (Tamoxifen), a form of chemotherapy, which I need to take for five to seven years. The Tamoxifen comes with its own side effects and keeps me in full menopause, so when I feel the hot flushes, I know it’s working! I received my all-clear at the end of June 2013. I cannot explain the feeling of absolute respect for life. I however have many medical bills which need to be paid and another operation to undergo to remove fat necrosis and a hernia. I hereby would like to request your support in helping me and my family pay these bills and eliminate the stress around same and the pain I go through on a daily basis due to the fat necrosis in my breast.