My battle with breast cancer #thinkpink

My name is Susie Lalla. Our family celebrated my husband Sean Lalla’s 50th birthday & also my son’s 18th birthday on Sat 8th Dec 2018 at Sette Bello restaurant. We spent the afternoon wining & dining and just enjoying each others company on a lovely 30 degree today. It was truly a fantastic day.

Two days later on Mon 10th Dec I went for a mammogram after work. Rushing as usual just trying to tick things off the to do list. Anticipating that once the appointment was finished that I would not need to do this again for another two years. A few weeks later I received a letter asking me to set aside three hours for further testing but stipulating not to worry as it was not unusual to have a recall. So on Mon 7th Jan I went to Maroondah Breastscreen to get a 3D ultrasound, a consultation & examination by a breast cancer surgeon & also three core biopsy samples were taken. Two days later on Wed 9th Jan I went to get my results. Little did I know that these results would turn my life upside down as I knew it.

Life had always been busy with Sean & myself working full time, our daughter Kiarra who is in year 10 competitively Irish dancing & also working as a waitress part time. Our son Kian was doing year 12 and was also playing ice hockey & spearfishing quite regularly. When the surgeon delivered the news that I had breast cancer I truly felt numb and in total disbelief. I had an agonizing wait until the 29th Jan to see Dr David Speakman, my surgeon, as I have an amazing friend Ronda who had truly spectacular things to say about him. The wait felt like an eternity as David was away on leave. Surgery was scheduled for 6th Feb. Prior to surgery you needed to get some sentinel node dye injected which entailed two injections in the nipple & then 2 injections in the lump itself to highlight the areas that needed removal. A lump 2.3 centimetres long & two nodes were then removed. This lump was further tested & subsequently I found out that I had triple negative breast cancer. (Triple negative breast cancer is a type of breast cancer that does not have any of the three receptors commonly found on breast cancer cells – the oestrogen, progesterone and HER2 receptors. Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive form of cancer that accounts for around 15% of breast cancer cases. There are around 2500 new cases of TNBC in Australia each year. There are no treatments that specifically target this form of the disease and survival rates are lower than for other breast cancer types.

Further tests ensued such as echocardiogram, cat scan, bone scan. My oncologist Laura Pellegrini then set a schedule for chemotherapy. So, two different chemotherapies were necessary.

AC is a combination of two chemotherapy drugs used to treat breast cancer. It takes its name from the initials of these drugs: doxorubicin (also known as Adriamycin) cyclophosphamide. (Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) is one of the most powerful chemotherapy drugs ever invented. It can kill cancer cells at every point in their life cycle, and it’s used to treat a wide variety of cancers. Unfortunately, the drug can also damage heart cells, so a patient can’t take it indefinitely.) I need to take this via drip for about 3 hours or so once every 2 weeks over the course of 8 weeks.

Next is Paclitaxel (Taxol) is an effective drug used for treating some cases of breast cancer and ovarian cancer, but it can damage nerves over time, leaving some people with decreased sensation in their hands and feet. The anticancer compound in this drug was first discovered in the bark of Pacific yew trees. I need to have this via drip again for about 3 hours once a week for 12 weeks. After this radiation therapy will need to be given Mon to Fri five days a week over the course of 6 weeks. (Radiotherapy is sometimes referred to as radiation therapy. It involves the use of X-rays to destroy cancer cells that may be left in the breast and/or axilla (armpit) after your surgery.) Radiation will start mid-August.

Hopefully after all this we will have blasted any cancer to oblivion never to return!

My aim in sharing all this information is to make people aware how important it is to get tested. The government testing does not come into effect for me until Oct 2019 So I am forever grateful for the little whisper in my mind to start self-initiated tests when I was 45, then 47 & again at 49 in Dec 2018. I would also like to raise some funds for the amazing cancer groups that have been so incredibly supportive of me in the short time that I have been immersed in this world. I have been incredibly touched an amazed at all the selfless work that these organizations & volunteers offer to people such as myself. I would like to help a group such as the THINK PINK FOUNDATION as it is an incredibly generous group. To offer a service such as this with no government funding and help only through donations is just amazing.

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Susie Lalla 
Mt. Waverley, AU
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