Kristy Lives With Stage 5 Breast Cancer, But She Remains Full of Gratitude
Breast cancer is Australia’s most diagnosed cancer, making it extremely prevalent in Australian women. But while it’s easier not think about it if you aren’t experiencing it first-hand, it’s something we should always be talking about.
With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re taking this opportunity to talk about breast health and share the important stories of women who are currently battling through breast cancer.
1 in 7 women in Australia, will be diagnosed with breast cancer throughout their lifetime.
Many of these women survive, many of them dedicate their lives to research and awareness and those stories are constantly inspiring to see. But there are also many women who don’t survive. Their stories are harder to tell, but perhaps even more important, because they remind us that the reality of cancer is actually something we can’t control.
Kristy Telford was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 29. While approximately 75 per cent of new cases develop in women over 50 and the average age of diagnosis is actually 60, age isn’t always a factor.
Kristy was also pregnant at the time of her diagnosis. Initially, she brushed it off thinking “surely it’s just hormonal changes due to pregnancy?” but deep down, she knew that something wasn’t right.
“My hormones had been running rampant with this pregnancy right from the start. I had migraines that made me vomit and my anxiety went through the roof,” she tells POPSUGAR Australia.
“When my mood began to change wildly, to the point where I felt I was turning into a crazy lady, I began to notice that the skin around the growing lump in my breast was red.
“With a family history of breast cancer, I knew what was coming. A close friend of mine gave me a call, to tell me that her mum had passed away from breast cancer, and that was it for me. I finally made an appointment to see my GP.”
Many of us can relate to putting off a doctor’s appointment that we know is necessary, for fear of hearing what you’re dreading. I think we’re all prone to brushing off symptoms, because a diagnosis can be scary and we’d all like to believe that we’re strong enough to get through anything.
Whether it’s something treatable like chlamydia or more severe like a type of cancer, having to face the reality of a diagnosis is something that we all wish we didn’t have to do at certain points in our life. But when it comes to one as serious as breast cancer, facing the facts is really our only option.
At 29 weeks pregnant, Kristy was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer, which she says was more of a shock to those close to her, than to herself. She’d prepared herself to hear this news and she was sure that she’d beat it.
She had a surgery to remove the two lumps found in her breast, she isolated herself from socialising and focused on being with her family in the few weeks she had left, until her life changed forever.
“Thanks to my amazing obstetrician, who advocated for me and my baby all the way, I was induced at 37 weeks gestation and gave birth to healthy baby girl,” Kristy tells us about giving birth, just weeks after her diagnosis.
“She brought so much joy to our lives during such a hard time.”
But things were only going to get more difficult for Kristy. After having more tests, more cancer was detected in her lymph nodes and her diagnosis was upgraded to Stage 3.
With a three-week-old baby in tow, she began intravenous chemo and underwent diagnostic scans that were unable to be performed while she was pregnant.
Three weeks after giving birth, Kristy found out that her cancer had metastasised — meaning it had spread beyond the breast to another part of the body. Each case is different, but for her, it was found in her liver.
“I was now a Stage 5 cancer patient, living the rest of my life with a terminal illness,” Kristy says.
“My greatest fear was that my girls would grow up without a mother and that has now become my reality.”
That diagnosis was four years ago and while Kristy considers herself lucky to still be alive, she’s learnt the power of gratitude.
“Not a day goes by where I don’t feel grateful for the life I’m still living. I’m so grateful that I get to be here for my girls and watch them bloom for as long as I can.”
The reality of a situation like Kristy’s is completely unimaginable to those who haven’t been through it. As I sit here, listening to her story and writing it down, I can’t begin to imagine the strength it must take to accept that your life is limited.
Kristy assures me that she has tough days, and that she feels very emotionally unstable, much of the time.
“No matter what, the fact that I am living with a disease that will eventually take my life does not go away,” she says.
“The thought is always there, sometimes at the forefront and sometimes at the back of my mind, but always debilitating.”
She says that there are days she feels like nothing is wrong with her, physically speaking. But as time goes on, she feels more and more exhausted, which being a mother to a four and five year old, makes it pretty hard not to notice.
This only makes me more in awe of her positivity. Regardless of how hopeless she may feel at times, Kristy’s determination to see the positives and do her best to educate others as well as be there for her family is truly inspiring.
“Life is short — we all know that. But what I’ve come to learn from my experience, is that length of time doesn’t really matter. It’s what you do with time that matters.
“Do what you enjoy, but do it with love and compassion. Be a good person. Sow seeds of kindness. Even long after we’ve gone, the memories remain and the seeds you planted will continue to grow.
“My girls will almost certainly have to go on without me at some point through their childhood, or if I’ve got my really hopeful hat on, adolescence.
“But if there’s one thing I hope they’ve learnt from me is to be kind, always.”
Breast Cancer Trials is the leading oncology research group in AUNZ. The group conducts clinical trials into the prevention and treatment of breast cancer, including metastatic breast cancer. At present, Breast Cancer Trials has two open trials, CAPTURE and DIAmOND, that are looking to improve outcomes and the quality of life for metastatic breast cancer patients.
Go to www.breastcancertrials.org.au to find out more about trials or donate to their life-saving research.