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18th June 2024 Breast Cancer

Alex's strength through diagnosis

Alex and Ruby horiz

With no family history of breast cancer, nor no lump or obvious symptoms, Alex Tanner was simply undertaking her routine mammogram when her life changed forever.

Aged 48, she’ll never forget the words the doctor said that day: “There’s a suspicious area on your left breast”.

It was April 2021, in a time affected by Covid, so while the mother-of-three would normally have her husband by her side at these appointments, visitor restrictions meant he was waiting in the carpark.

It was a surreal time.

“I eventually saw my husband down at the car park and I said ‘I think I have breast cancer’,” Alex recalls.

“But at that stage, we didn’t know what we were dealing with, and what life was going to look like.”

She soon underwent a biopsy, which confirmed their fears.

“I had what’s called invasive lobular cancer, which grows flat and spider-like. It’s referred to as being very sneaky,” she says.

“It’s very rare that you’d feel a lump with this type of cancer, you’d normally see more of a change in your breast appearance. So there might be some dimpling, particularly when you raise your arm.”

Alex was then sent for a myriad of blood tests and scans to understand the full extent of the cancer, a time she describes as “the worst week of my life”.

They’d discovered the cancer was stage 3C and on her lymph nodes, but thankfully hadn’t spread any further.

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What followed next was eight months of intensive treatment. She had a full left mastectomy and auxiliary clearance (to clear out the lymph nodes), then 16 rounds of chemotherapy and 25 rounds of radiotherapy.

“It was a full-on eight months, chemo affects everyone in different ways. For me, the way it affected my appearance was daunting, it tells a story to everyone that you are dealing with something and sometimes you just want to escape those conversations.

“I was committed to keeping a positive mindset, and I’ve got a really strong husband and kids.”

It was this network of family and friends that kept her going – particularly youngest daughter Ruby’s school and netball community. Ruby was doing Year 12 at the time and playing for Contax Netball Club, and the support was immense.

“Netball were amazing, the mother-like figures at netball were all there for her,” Alex says. “I’d never missed a game of netball until then.”

A life-time lover of netballer, Alex is proud to be teaming up with the Adelaide Thunderbirds and The Hospital Research Foundation Group as an ambassador for the Thunderbirds’ PLAY 4 PINK game on 22 June, raising funds and awareness for breast cancer research.

People can buy limited-edition PLAY 4 PINK beanies for the Round 11 home clash, with all proceeds going to breast cancer research and patient care through The Hospital Research Foundation Group.

Alex knows firsthand how much medical research can bring a brighter outlook for women like her fighting breast cancer.

“I’m so grateful for the country we live in and the access we have to medical research. Yes I’m on active treatment for the next 10 years, but just imagine the research that can be done in that time,” she says.

“There could be a cure in that time, it’s not impossible.”

To support this important cause, visit www.hospitalresearch.org.au/thunderbirds-play-4-pink to purchase your PLAY 4 PINK beanie or make a donation.

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