With no family history and aged in early 30s, Lisa Granger didn’t fall into the “regular brackets” for breast cancer diagnosis. But just two weeks after her 30th birthday, that’s exactly what she was facing.
After discovering a lump in her left breast, a week later Ms Granger was diagnosed with stage three invasive carcinoma. Within a month she had undergone a left breast mastectomy.
Four years later, Ms Granger says she is still grappling with the emotional, mental and financial tolls that came with her diagnosis and subsequent treatments.
“Women get put into a certain bracket and I think if you don’t fit into that, it could be very easy to fall through the gaps,” she said.
“I think education is the key and I know for me, when the doctors sent me for that initial ultrasound I thought – don’t be silly, I am sure it’s not cancer.
“When woman are faced with upwards of $500 for a mammogram, it even easier to dismiss symptoms because who wants to pay that much money for something that is probably nothing.”
Last month the Breast Cancer Network of Australia’a State of the Nation report revealed Tasmania, along with the Northern Territory, were the only states without publicly funded diagnostic mammography.
The report also highlighted “alarming” gaps in psychological care, including support during and after diagnosis as well as a lack of publicly funded services and access to local follow up care.
When Ms Granger received her breast cancer diagnosis, she said the only breast cancer specialist in Launceston was booked out for a month.
Because of the aggressive nature of her disease, she said she had no choice but to travel to Melbourne to receive treatment.
“I was getting all of this horrible news regarding my health, but the financial shock was just as concerning,” she said.
“I needed a left breast mastectomy, I would lose my nipple and more than likely most of my lymph nodes.
“Then the financial shock hit. I only had basic hospital cover and the surgeon wouldn’t consider charging gap cover.
“The out of pocket cost for surgery and plastics alone was approximately $15,000.
“I haven’t been game to add up how much I would be out of pocket for now with all of the follow-up mammograms, ultrasounds and ongoing medications.”
But for Ms Granger, the hardest part was still to come – how her treatment would impact her fertility.
Because of the nature of her cancer, which was oestrogen receptor positive, Ms Granger said her surgical team advised her they could not support freezing her eggs as the procedure would be too dangerous.
“This was the worst part of the whole experience,” she said.
“All I’ve ever wanted was to be a mother.
“I was newly engaged and not far off planning for a family.
“They say hindsight is a wonderful thing, this is something I wished I received a second opinion on.”
After her treatment, Ms Granger returned to Launceston where she underwent six months of chemotherapy followed by 12 weeks of radiation.
Now in remission, Ms Granger said she wanted to help raise awareness for the disease.
She recently traveled to Melbourne to take part in a workshop hosted by BCNA and said it was inspiring to hear the stories of other breast cancer survivors.
“Being in remission as a young woman, there is a lot more life to live so there is a much higher chance for re-occurrence,” she said.
“Breast cancer isn’t just a disease for older women and I think our health system needs to reflect that.
“I never thought I would be just a statistic.
“I have hope for the future, but at the moment I don’t really know how the chemo has affected my chances to one day have children.
“If I had my time again, there are many things I would do differently.
“But that is why I want to share my story – in the hopes that other woman won’t go through what I did.
“I know education is key, so I want to be a part of that.”
- Support is available at www.bcna.org.au.