It was a one in a million chance

Hi my name is Jennifer Lucas. I would like to share my story with you in the hope that it inspires others to be strong, grow and remain positive through tough and trying times. I was 21 years old when diagnosed. I live and study in Auckland, but am originally from Hamilton- which I still call home. I have an awesomely supportive family and would be no where without them! My boyfriend Che has also been amazing.

I first felt the lump in January 07, I can’t remember exactly how but I was possibly changing my bra or something and felt a lump just under my areola. (Just under my nipple). There was no chance cancer crossed my mind at that stage and I forgot about it. Approximately a month later I felt it again, I asked my boyfriend and mum if they could feel it, and they both said yes. So with encouragement from my Mum I went to my GP. As I had no family history, I was so young and a lot of girls my age have abnormalities due to the breast still developing, I was understandably made non urgent. Every medical professional I saw told me I shouldn’t be too worried, fortunately every single one of them referred me on ‘just in case’, which I am now so grateful for. The core biopsy was the first time I really thought about cancer, as they were the only ones who didn’t tell me not to worry.

I was diagnosed on 6 th of June 07 in the middle of my 2 nd year physiotherapy exams. As there was no family history, it was a complete shock to everyone including the doctors, surgeons, friends and certainly myself and my family. One of the doctors described it as “being struck by lighting, one in a million chance.” The funny thing was the lump I had initially found turned out to be just a raised part of my areola – nothing to do with the cancer at all. The lump my GP found was the actual cancer. Someone was looking out for me! The surgeon said I had no choice but to have a mastectomy because it was so large. Initially I was only diagnosed with DCIS cancer. On the 26 th of June I had my surgery and reconstruction – lat flap. Che made me feel good about having the mastectomy saying “there are harder things to live without babe.”– Very true!

The worst was yet to come though, as when I went back for what I thought was a final appointment, the surgeon advised me she had found not only invasive cancer, but Her2 and hormone positive cancer. I was devastated, this now meant I had to have Chemotherapy, Radiation therapy, Hormone treatment and Herceptin – which I was going to have to pay for because my cancer wasn’t bad enough (how can you justify that?). The news that probably hurt the most about being diagnosed with invasive cancer wasn’t the fact that I was going to lose my hair, or have months of sitting around having chemicals pumped into me. It was the fact the chemotherapy could make me infertile.

I tried to harvest some eggs but unfortunately it didn’t work and I was scheduled in to have chemo that afternoon so there was no time to try again. The chemo wasn’t as bad as I had pictured in my head, and I was able to continue with uni. Also while having chemo I had to fundraise apx $72k for Herceptin, this was no easy task. Without the help and support of Denise McKenzie I wouldn’t be having it! We put on various events to fundraise, the main one being ‘bald brand buddies.’ You can visit my website to look at the pics – www.jenlucas.co.nz. I find it difficult thinking about how Pharmac can justify only giving us 9 weeks of Herceptin, when with the exact same research, studies and information 33 other OCED countries fund it. How are we not coming to the same conclusion?

Having cancer has changed my life I have looked at all the good things that have come from this, like learning about myself and realising my potential and not having to shave my legs all summer! I’ve also met some really amazing and inspirational people. I think having a positive attitude and utilising the support offered has been the key to getting through this and if I had a choice I wouldn’t change it. You have to take life as it comes and look at the bright side of every situation. Although sometimes the positive stuff doesn’t present itself obviously, don’t give up on looking for it because it almost certainly will always be there.