In the 24th of May 2017, my gorgeous 23-year-old cousin Jerry was diagnosed with an aggressive, and extremely rare form of breast cancer (A less than 1% chance for someone her age).
Only 3 weeks prior to her devastating diagnosis, Jerry noticed an unusual large lump in her breast and knew it had to be checked. After an ultrasound, the doctor reported “normal” breast tissue and was not concerned of its cancerous potential due to her young age, and she was brushed off. However, thankfully for Jerry’s extremely thorough GP, he was dissatisfied with the report and trusted Jerry’s gut instinct, and therefore sent her for a second opinion with a breast surgeon.
This breast surgeon agreed with Jerry’s GP and immediately investigated further. Within a few days Jerry's life was turned upside down… her life for at least the next 6 months was completely planned out for her by the specialist and his team. One year ago Jerry was embarking on an exciting journey through Europe, never imagining that one year later she would now be embarking on an entirely different journey. Since her diagnosis, Jerry has already been through a whirlwind of appointments and investigations as a matter of urgency to determine the most appropriate and immediate plan of action.
It was decided by Jerry's wonderful team of specialists to start her treatment process with chemotherapy as soon as possible. Due to the type and grade of cancer, Jerry will endure a mastectomy on the affected breast and also on the other as a preventative measure. A breast reconstruction will follow from this. Prior to any of the daunting treatments to come, Jerry has already had to endure, 2 ultrasounds, a core biopsy of the lump, CT scan and full body MRI to investigate whether cancer has spread to her organs (thankfully, it has not!!), and a genetic blood test is yet to confirm the exact type of cancer as it is non-hormonal. Next, was surgery to investigate lymphnode involvement (lymphoscintigram) with the subsequent removal of 4 lymphnodes (unfortunately the cancer has been found in one of the nodes and will also be removed during upcoming surgery).
In addition to everything already faced within this short time, then began the personal and confronting process of being sent to the IVF clinic to produce and preserve Jerry's eggs for her future, in case the chemotherapy affects her fertility. Definitely something this 23yo - who was currently focussed on beginning her career as an Occupational Therapist - had not felt the need to think of just yet! And so, the frightening process started of Jerry's treatment plan on June 16th 2017, to fight the cancer with 4 fortnightly visits of intense chemotherapy, to be followed by 12 weekly sessions. In order to easily prepare Jerry for her chemo sessions, a PICC line was inserted into Jerry’s arm which will remain there for the next 5 months. Although for a good reason, this is an uncomfortable and restrictive addition to her body, and is a constant reminder of her cancer. With the prospect of losing her hair, Jerry has been given the opportunity to use a relatively new device called the ‘Cooling Cap’, which has a 30-40% chance of preventing loss of her beloved hair – a sense of her identity. Since her diagnosis, Jerry has been unable to work and has exhausted all her leave. Her parents have also taken numerous days off to support Jerry and attend all medical appointments. They now have returned to work to earn money to cover medical costs, as well as general living expenses, which has put an unpreventable strain on their finances. Thousands of dollars have already been spent on IVF, appointments, and surgeries as well as the ongoing costs of medications, bone marrow injections, treatments etc., and the upcoming cost of surgery. No one should be faced with the awful diagnosis of cancer, and it is baffling that a healthy young lady could have been so unlucky and forced to put aside her life and fight this horrible disease. Feeling helpless, myself and Jerry's extended family and many friends have struggled to find how we can best support her through this journey aside from providing social support and encouraging words of comfort. So, this is our opportunity to support Jerry and her family in a way that is helpful beyond words, as they would never ask for this kind of help themselves! With your help, the stress of trying to find the money to cover the costs already endured, ongoing and yet to come, can be relieved. Any contributions no matter how big or small are genuinely appreciated and will assist in relieving the unnecessary stress at this time. No one should have to endure financial stress at a time like this, so we ask for assistance of those willing and able to help in this way, so Jerry and her family can focus on her health as a main priority. The funds will go directly to Jerry so medical and other costs can be taken care of as soon as possible. Despite all the negativity that surrounds cancer and its treatment, Jerry has remained optimistic, positive, determined, and is eager to be an inspiration to others and not let herself be defined by cancer. Jerry is also determined to spread awareness by her story and will be doing her own fundraiser at the end of the year to help donate towards research for Breast Cancer Australia. We thank everyone in advance for their support and hope Jerry’s story can encourage both females and males to check their breasts for anything out of the norm, and as Jerry says, “If you feel something is not right, trust you gut instinct and request a second opinion if necessary”.