Michelle experienced the fight of her life when she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at just 36 years old.
“I was lying on the couch and felt a pain when my left arm pressed into my breast. I froze. There’s such a misconception about breast cancer not causing pain, but my experience through Mum taught me differently,” Michelle said.
“I lay down on my bed and lifted my arm behind my head to check properly. I felt it straight away. It was like a rock with a point on it. I actually said out loud, ‘What the hell is that?”
Helped by her mum, Michelle was able to see a specialist straight away to have a mammogram, an ultrasound and a biopsy.
“I remember going to get my results and sitting in between Mum and my sister, holding their hands. But when the doctor said the word ‘cancer’, I just glazed over and disappeared.”
“It was surreal. I was terrified, mostly of the incomprehensible thought of leaving my son Nate behind. He was only 4 years old at the time and I knew he’d grow up different without me. I felt desperate and hopeless. I just needed somebody to fix me so I could stay here for my son.”
Despite the other health battles being fought across the country right now, we know that sadly, breast cancer doesn’t stop affecting our loved ones.
The facts are that 1 in 7 Australian women will face breast cancer in their lifetimes.
Michelle (centre) with her mum Judith and sister Jennifer
These alarming statistics are felt keenly by Michelle and her family. Just four years before Michelle’s diagnosis, her mum Judith fought her own battle with triple negative breast cancer.
“Luckily, her cancer was caught early and she survived, but watching her go through it changed me, and a fear of the future crept in,” says Michelle.
Then, on New Years Day in 2013, that familiar fear came back again when Michelle received her diagnosis.
Thankfully, Michelle’s cancer hadn’t spread, and she was able to have a lumpectomy straight away. After that, she had 6 months of chemotherapy, and then a double mastectomy and reconstruction.
Michelle says, “This time in my life was incredibly difficult, but I learnt that when you face the fire, you dig in, stand firm, and fight.”
This mentality is shared by Associate Professor Phil Gregory and his team, who are fighting as hard as they can to develop a ground-breaking new way of treating triple negative breast cancer.
“My team and I have discovered a new, previously unstudied protein that is ‘switched on’ in triple negative breast cancer,” says A/Prof Gregory.
A/Prof Phil Gregory Gregory.
“Further testing to determine exactly how this new protein functions could be the key to unlocking an innovative, targeted and far more effective treatment for women fighting this devastating disease.”
Heartbreakingly, once triple negative breast cancer has spread, the survival rate is only 8-13 months.
The next trial phase of A/Prof Gregory’s research is critical and is only able to progress thanks our generous supporters who are helping to give the women in our lives a fighting chance against breast cancer.
As Michelle says, “Nobody is immune to this, and it’s so important that we fight this disease together. It’s aggressive and it’s breaking up families.”
Breast cancer is something no one should have to go through, and this research will offer new hope to thousands of Aussie mums, daughters, wives, sisters and friends.