Lara’s mother died from breast cancer in 2014. She talks about her own diagnosis, and how she went through treatment away from her family while living in Austria.
Cancer has always been a close relative
I’ve never been one of the lucky ones who hasn’t been personally affected by cancer. Since I was five, cancer had been a very close relative to my family, always knocking on the door like an annoying neighbour.
My mum was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 32. By the time I was 28, she was going through her fourth and final acquaintance with cancer.
She passed away in May 2014. I later found out that I had the BRCA2 gene, which explains why I am now following in her footsteps with my own breast cancer diagnosis.
I was in Austria when I was diagnosed
Three months ago I found a lump in my breast. I didn’t know what to expect or feel for when you are checking regularly, but when I found my lump there was no denying that it was something alien.
At this point I was in Austria and had just completed my Snowboard Instructors qualification. Over the course of a week, I received test after test – CT scan, MRI, mammogram and a double biopsy.
My mind began to go into overload, but I was almost laughing at the predictability of my situation. I was ready to hear the worst.
I was diagnosed with HER2 positive breast cancer and told that my right breast had a large tumour in it. I would need chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and radiotherapy – the full works. The doctor told me that although the tumour hadn’t spread to other parts of my body, the lymph nodes under my armpit were affected.
I was away from my loved ones
Due to the aggressive nature of my breast cancer, the specialist suggested I start treatment straight away. I decided to stay in Austria for my treatment.
This would mean staying in the country for four months and being away from my friends and family. In total, I had treatment once every three weeks.
Lara having her head shaved and trying on a wig.
Support is so important
I’m astonished by the rapidness of the medical team at Schwaz Hospital in Austria. It was also at this time that I met my wonderful boyfriend John, who has stuck by me through thick and thin. No one can understand what you’re going through, but having support is so important.
My family and friends have flown over to see me with the main goal of keeping my chin up and making me smile.
Cancer is a rollercoaster
Cancer is a rollercoaster. Times can be tough and emotions can run very high. Losing my hair was an experience in itself, but along with mouth ulcers, sickness and fatigue, it’s all part of the journey.
Since being diagnosed with breast cancer I have been trying to lead a healthier lifestyle. My appetite is out of this world, especially for a sick person! I cook, bake and eat more than ever.
With my friends I am allowed to get away with murder by playing ‘The Cancer Card’. It’s a joke, of course, but it’s a great way of making the situation lighthearted and relieving stress from my diagnosis.
I appreciate what matters
I feel lucky for all that I have experienced so far in my life. It’s allowed me to appreciate what really matters and has given me the strength to get through my difficult moments.
Each morning I try to remember that I am out here, living my life in the way I want to. My breast cancer is just a small stepping stone I must get past.
Life isn’t forever, so we have to make the most of it, regardless of the situation.
A longer version of this piece was originally posted on Lara's blog.
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