Eventually she lost so much weight due to stress that she weighed less than 40kg and the tumour was visible. The mammographer was closing for Christmas and refused to do a mammogram. Eventually, Sharon needed to have an ultrasound to prove the existence of the tumour before the mammographer would do the test.
The test and biopsy showed a large cancerous mass and a mastectomy was necessary. During surgery, the mass was discovered to be an 8.2cm cancerous ductal tumour that had begun attacking the pectoral muscle.
The surgery was brutal and the surgeon, who had wanted a 10mm clear margin, could only get 1mm.
The next day, Sharon booked herself out of hospital to attend our daughter's graduation with all the tubing and drainage bags still in place but cleverly hidden.
More stress kicks in when our 4 year old daughter discovers the full story and cries every night at bed time and asks Sharon to promise not to die, Sharon doesn't feel able to do this because at this stage we don't know.
Three months later radiation treatment begins. Six weeks, 5 days per week.
Six weeks in Perth, 300km away from her family, including two autistic children, and Sharon is not happy. She hates to be away from home. So every Friday she has the first appointment and then drives 3 hours to get home in time to pick up the kids from school. She stays the weekend and then drops the kids off at school , and drives 3 hours back to Perth in order to have the last appointment of the day.
The radiation is harsh. Because of the tiny surgical margin, Sharon has to have the maximum dose. She gets burnt, she gets blisters, her skin cracks open and she is told she can never have any more radiation if the cancer comes back.
Fast forward three years.
Sharon decides to have a breast reconstruction. her back has begun to hurt as she finds herself walking defensively in crowds.
The process begins in July 2013 with the insertion of a skin expander. This is pumped up with saline over a few months to stretch the skin in order to hold an implant. Quite a painfull process.
In November, just before the operation to swap the expander with the implant, the doctor discovers cancerous cells in the other breast. So the next operation is another mastectomy with an implant straight in and the swapping of the expander on the other side.
All good and Sharon is happy it is over.
But it isn't. The radiated and expanded skin will not hold the implant and it keeps splitting open. an infection could kill her.
The next 55 days are a nightmare. She contracts a Staph infection, and her radiated skin is dissolving. She needs 5 more major surgeries and she is getting thinner and thinner. Surgery number 7 is to remove the right implant,but the new implants are designed to bond to the skin, so this, in fact, is classed as an amputation.
After surgery number 7 the doctor gives up. Sharon is left with a crater on the right side , her ribs are protruding and brittle with thin skin covering them and there are growths on the ribs caused by the radiation.
Not one to give up, Sharon decides to try to fix this mess she has been left in and with some thorough research finds a surgeon in Perth that is exceptional and has the experience to help. One catch, we have no private health insurance and I have been unable to work due to Sharon's health.
Anyway, the surgeon sees the mess that Sharon is in and accepts the challenge and also offers to do it free of charge!!!
Operation 8 lasts for 7 hours. The surgeon takes a piece of back skin, sections the Latissimus Dorsi, threads it under her arm and attaches it to the remains of the pectoral muscle and then puts in another expander and use the back skin to make a new breast, completely amazing.
More expanding over a few months and a final 9th operation to put in another implant.
So this is her story and it has been hard.
Sharon would really like to have the scars on her right breast covered. She has a 20cm scar on her back as well as 9 drain hole scars on one side and 5 on the other and none of these bother her, but I know that the scars on her right breast do bother her. I could tell, so I asked her why an she told me that everytime she sees them all she can remember is our 4 year old saying,"Please don't die tonight Mummy". That's a horrible memory.
Sharon has been through a lot and I think she would just like some closure and to move on and I think she deserves this.
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