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Real Life

Real life: “I participated in a clinical trial that saved my life”

Mum-of-two Melissa was devastated when she diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. She was willing to try anything to get better.

Melissa, 41, shares her true life story:

My heart thudded as I stared into my husband, Daniel’s eyes, unsure how to break the terrible news.
“I have breast cancer,” I whispered.
Lost for words, he pulled me close and held me as I cried.
After finding a lump in the shower two weeks earlier, a mammogram and biopsy had confirmed my worst fears.
I’d gone from a healthy mum with no family history of cancer to a woman with a stage three, almond-sized tumour in her left breast and lymph nodes.
Me, Daniel, Maddison (right) and Montana.
Telling our daughters, Maddison, 12, and Montana, 10, was the hardest part.
“I’m going to get sicker,” I explained. “But I promise I’ll get better afterwards.”
Wrapping me in a bear hug, they cried against me.
It was a lot for their little hearts to handle.
A week later, Daniel and my mum took me to discuss treatment options with my surgeon.
Having my first treatment.
“Because your oestrogen levels are causing your cancerto grow, you’re eligible to take part in a clinical trial,” she told us.
The ELIMINATE trial would combine chemo and hormone drugs to try to shrink the tumour and avoid the need for a mastectomy.
A positive outcome wasn’t guaranteed but Daniel and I agreed it was worth a shot.
I thought about my daughters and others who might one day benefit from trials like this one.
A month later, I started chemo alongside oestrogen blocking drugs. Mum sat holding my hand, as two large syringes of red liquid were injected into my veins.
Over 15 weeks I had 16 rounds of chemo.
Aside from fatigue and losing my blonde hair, it didn't knock me about too badly.
In fact, it was so successful my tumour shrunk by one centimetre in that time.
“Instead of removing your entire breast, we only need to perform a lumpectomy,” my surgeon told me happily.
Leaving the hospital after my surgery.
A month later the tumour and two lymph nodes in the surrounding area were removed.
Waking up from surgery, I saw my girls run up to my bed.
“Hurry up, we want you back,” they encouraged.
The following day, Maddison and Montana pushed my wheelchair out the hospital doors and Daniel drove us home.
Now, a year after I finished radiation, I’m cancer free and back to being an active mum – something that wouldn’t have been possible without the less-invasive trial treatment.
I’m so grateful to have come so far.
For more information head to https://www.breastcancertrials.org.au/home.

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