Mom’s Heartbreaking Cancer Experience During Covid: “Absolutely Terrified”

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Bec Pene, a breast cancer patient, understands the importance of early detection when it comes to a cancer diagnosis.

Now, she is sharing her story to make sure others get tested as quickly as possible, despite the difficulties getting screened for breast cancer during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bec, a 35-year-old mother from Sydney’s north coast was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer after discovering a small, 1.5cm lump. With no family history of breast cancer, her diagnosis came as a shock.

But she says she is extremely lucky that she was caught early.

“It makes a huge difference that cancer is caught early,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

Courageous Sydney mom Bec Pene shared her story about breast cancer. Source: Supplied

“My cancer was quite aggressive and was classified as stage three, which means it can spread faster. It had spread to one of my lymph nodes, but luckily it didn’t spread beyond that.

“You can’t die from specific breast cancer, but you can die if it spreads to other parts of the body like your liver, lungs or brain.

“So finding it while it’s still in your womb and hasn’t traveled your whole body is really important.”

Bec found the lump three weeks after her wedding, while she was on her honeymoon. She had turned 33 a few months earlier.

“What was supposed to be one of the happiest times of my life turned into my worst nightmare when I heard the words, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t have good news, it’s cancer, ”she says.

“My world moved away from me and I screamed. I was absolutely terrified. All I could think of was, “I’m going to die, I don’t want to die”.

Smiling newlyweds look at each other on a beach.  Source: Supplied

Bec on her wedding day, she found a lump in her chest during her honeymoon. Source: Supplied

“You see, I have associated cancer with death. I never thought you could get cancer and live long after that. I thought cancer was a guaranteed death sentence.

After clear bone and a CT scan, Bec underwent an MRI, mammogram, more ultrasounds, and a few other biopsies. It was confirmed that her cancer had spread to her sentinel node.

“I had a double mastectomy with axillary release. I had clear margins and luckily only one positive node. It was a fantastic result, ”says Bec.

Just as the Covid numbers were starting to rise, she was nearing the end of her five-week radiation therapy.

Why she shares her story

Although she knows she is not alone, with the Covid-19 pandemic affecting millions of people around the world, Bec says it’s important to recognize the impact she has had, in especially on the early detection of health problems.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, currently affecting over 230,000 women and men.

“It’s really scary the number of mammograms that have been missed because of Covid, because it means people can be diagnosed at a later stage so they can have a worse prognosis,” says Bec.

Breast cancer screening facilities have been temporarily suspended across NSW due to Covid-19 from August 19.

The BrestScreen NSW website says the shutdown was due to the increased risk of the Delta strain as well as the need to “redeploy staff to support the pandemic response to each local health district.”

Bec recently shared her concerns on Facebook in an effort to inspire others to get tested and highlight the importance of early detection, speaking during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

“The Covid has had a huge impact on breast cancer screening. Delayed mammograms, people avoiding seeing their doctor for concerns until “after it’s all over.”

“The impacts of this will be visible until 2030, with both women and men being diagnosed at a later stage,” she wrote.

“If you feel that something is wrong, don’t ignore it.”

Woman in cancer room.  Source: Supplied

After successfully treating her breast cancer, Bec warns others to get tested early if they think something is wrong. Source: Supplied

Besides suspending breast cancer screening facilities, Bec says cancer patients have had other challenges throughout the pandemic, including not having in-person support from family and friends.

“For me, the other impacts that Covid has had concern my regular check-ups. So, like many others, I can’t take anyone with me to these dates, ”she explains.

“I also went to the hospital this year for surgery and no one was able to visit me.

“Usually I would bring my five-year-old with my husband, mother and sister for help, but none of them could come to see me. “

She knows full well that this has an impact on other cancer patients as well.

“I met a few other women in a situation similar to mine and one of them had been told that her cancer had come back and that she was alone because no one could be with her,” says Bec.

“It’s the worst feeling in the world. I can’t imagine hearing that sort of thing and you don’t have your support there.

Breast cancer screening centers will gradually reopen

BreastScreen NSW announced Thursday that they are currently working to reopen testing facilities around NSW with a “phased” approach on a case-by-case basis.

“As the clinics reopen, we will prioritize women whose appointments were canceled during the suspension to resume their appointments as soon as possible in their area,” said an announcement on the BreastScreen NSW website.

A number of locations have already started operating, but the website says it may take “some time” before all testing clinics are back on.

To see the full list of currently open clinics, visit BreastScreen NSW.

For updates on openings and when new bookings will be available, check out the BreastScreen Facebook page.

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