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🎗 Sandra Mitchell - Survivor

My Story 🎗

On Monday 5th December 2011 I had my annual appointment at the Sydney Breast Clinic. I caught the bus from home very early to reach the city for my 8.30am-scheduled appointment. As usual, I had a mammogram, then scan & saw the specialist, nothing unusual I thought, this happens every year due to my very lumpy breast tissue!

Then the specialist called me in again and said they needed to do some biopsies and get them tested. They sent me away for a coffee and to return at 1pm. When I returned I had a number of fine needle biopsies and waited for the results. At 4.30pm when myself and one other lady were left in the waiting room I thought to myself ‘I’m not liking this’!!

I was called back into the office and I asked, “Do I have breast cancer?” I got the answer I was dreading “Yes”. I then had to catch the bus home dealing with my thoughts & emotions! “How was I going to tell my family?” “Was I going to die?” “What did this mean?” “I am the strong one in the family and if anything happens to me, what will the rest of the family do?” I made the journey home with lots of tears (not sure what the other passengers thought!) I have a wonderful supportive family and although they were all shocked my children and their partners came rushing over the moment my husband called them and we all hugged and cried not knowing what lay ahead for us.

The next day I rang my friend who works at Specialist Services and she made me an appointment that week with Dr James French. The moment I met him I felt at ease and knew I was in good hands. He said that the tumour in my left breast was too large to do a lumpectomy so I would need to have a mastectomy. As it was coming up to Christmas, surgery was scheduled for 5th January.

During that time I had various appointments with different medical people, plastic surgeon Dr Thomas Lam, psychologist, occupational therapist, blood test, sentinel node mapping etc. This was a very busy time, but also a time for me to think about what lay ahead for me and what my options were. As I researched more about breast cancer it was evident to me that many women who had had lumpectomies or one breast removed often developed breast cancer in the other breast at a later date, so I decided to have both breasts off and that way the implants could be the same size therefore aesthetically I would look even!! So with the decision made and plans in place I could settle and enjoy Christmas with my family, well as much as we could with this looming over me!

As a lady motorbike rider and a member of the Hill Branch of Ulysses, I was devastated that I might not get to ride my lovely BMW anymore or go dirt bike riding in the National Parks with my husband. I actually didn’t feel like riding at the time and thought perhaps I should sell my bikes and even mentioned it to my family. My husband wanted to wrap me in cotton wool and I think he thought it would be a good idea to sell my bikes too. Then I thought, “I’m not going to die, I am going to fight this and live and get back on my bikes!”


The surgery went well and surgeons were able to put implants in at the same time (only a size B/C though!!) and I recovered fairly well, however had a set back a month later when I had a bleed in the left breast, I was back in hospital for another week!!! I must admit I was extra cautious when I went home after the bleed, not wanting to go through that again.

Finally I was on the mend and as there was no lymph nodes affected the cancer had not invaded anywhere therefore no need for chemotherapy or radiotherapy, I was elated!! Slowly I regained my strength and was able to return to work and get on with my life. I have struggled getting used to the implants and even after 2 ½ years find my chest is still quite tender, however I have increased my exercise and the tenderness is getting less.

I got back on my bikes and even rode my BMW to Maryborough for the Ulysses AGM last year and had such a great time agreed with my husband to ride to this years AGM which was held in Alice Springs. We were away for 3 weeks and visited some wonderful places, including Uluru, Mt Isa, Longreach and Lightening Ridge. Even though we had some very long days on the bikes, I enjoyed every minute of the trip.

Last year I had a total hysterectomy as a precaution against developing uterine or ovarian cancer. I made sure I was fit and in good health going into surgery and I bounced back very quickly and was back on my bike a month later. I must acknowledge the team at Specialist Services, they are truly amazing and I feel part of the ‘family’ and they treat me as such. These wonderful people have to deal with many men & women who are facing cancer treatment, some who don’t make it and some, like me, who are ‘lucky’!

My heart felt thanks to all of them who go above and beyond to help us deal with this dreadful disease. My advice to all women is to have regular mammograms, my cancer was only found on mammogram, I felt no lump, I was Lucky!!  

Written by Sandra Mitchell in 2014