A very high risk of breast cancer still didn’t prepare Leah Baylis to hear those fateful words.
Even as a busy mum, wife, friend and director of her own business, Champagne Recruitment – being vigilant about her health is what saved her life, and she wants other women to take note.
“I have a family history of breast cancer on both my mum and dad’s side,” the 43-year-old recalls.
“In my early 30s, I went to see the breast cancer surgeon my mum had, and he suggested I have annual MRI scans. My breast tissue is quite dense so MRIs are the best way to go rather than mammograms.
“On the morning of my MRI last year, I almost didn’t go. It was a busy week at work, my daughter was sick.
“It was almost put in the too-hard-basket, which many women can relate to, but it really needs to go in the number-one basket.
“I was diagnosed with a stage 3 hormone receptive breast cancer, that was spreading really aggressively and growing rapidly in size.
“It hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes yet, but if I had put off my scan and gone a couple months later, it would’ve been a completely different diagnosis.”
Leah’s cancer was found on the back wall of her breast, meaning that it could not be felt through self-checks nor unlikely to be seen in a mammogram, so her decision to have MRIs saved her life.
“I still want every woman to know that they must keep checking every month, but also be more vigilant than that. Educate yourself and take the next step if you feel you need to – get a mammogram or MRI to be sure.”
Upon hearing those fateful words, the decision was made to immediately have a double mastectomy, where both breasts are removed to ensure not only the cancer is removed, but there is less risk of it returning.
“Even though it was only found in my right breast, the doctor said I’d be constantly worrying about my other one, and I never want to hear those words again.
“My outlook is really positive now. It hadn’t spread to the lymph nodes so I didn’t need chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
“I was just really lucky I caught it when I did.”
Leah is proud to be an ambassador for THE PINK SLAM basketball game on 14 October, being hosted by the Adelaide 36ers and The Hospital Research Foundation Group to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research.
She notes research can change the outlook for cancer patients in the space of a generation.
“I think research is incredibly important, it’s amazing to think how far we’ve come over the past 20 years,” she said.
“I have a six-year-old daughter who is at very high risk, so we need to invest in research so the outlook is even brighter for her in the next 20 years.”
The Hospital Research Foundation Group CEO Paul Flynn praised Leah for sharing her story, and was excited to see 36ers get behind the cause.
“Everyone knows someone impacted by breast cancer,” Paul said.
“The Hospital Research Foundation Group proudly supports research that helps with the prevention, detection and treatment of breast cancer, as well as patient care initiatives in hospitals and accommodation for country cancer patients.
“But this vital work can only continue with the generous support of South Australians and we can’t wait to see them get behind their pink 36ers on 14 October.”