Lauren Cochrane was just 29 when she found out she had breast cancer...
“I was in the middle of sorting out the seating plan for my wedding when the reminder popped up: I was due for a pap smear and breast check—just one more thing to fit in, I groaned. Wasn’t life with a major event coming up in two months hectic enough? I never guessed that just a week later I’d be sitting at my desk, listening to my GP on the other end of the phone tell me that I had cancer in my left breast. I felt devastated. I was only 29, I was about to marry the man of my dreams, become a stepmum to his gorgeous daughter and hopefully give her a sibling soon… how on earth was cancer going to fit into that? I never thought it would happen to me. I struggled to come to terms with the news, and the sudden change from planning a wedding to planning my survival. But in a way the wedding was the best thing: we kept busy, and we decided we would just do what needed to be done—including surgery just weeks before the wedding.
When I got the news that the cancer hadn't spread to the lymph nodes, I was elated; I thought I was in the clear—thank goodness, because we were trying for a baby. It took a while, but finally I got that thin blue line. I was so excited that when I got the new the cancer was back, it took a while to sink in. There I was, 11 weeks pregnant and getting ready to tell everyone we were expecting, and my doctor was advising me to terminate the pregnancy to make the treatment options better. I couldn't do it. Getting pregnant hadn’t come easily, and my focus was on the baby… while everyone else was thinking about treatment for me. I ended up having a mastectomy, but declined chemo and decided on radiation after the baby was born. I’m not going to lie—there were a lot of tears. I found it so hard to lose a breast, particularly when my body was already going through so many changes with pregnancy. I didn’t feel womanly. But I decided not to let it get me down. I would do what I had to and we would take it all as it came. After all, there was nothing we could do to change it, we just had to keep moving forward.
Holding my daughter was the most magical feeling ever. It made everything worth it.
Two weeks after Violet was born, I started radiation – every day for 26 days. I was exhausted—but that could have been something to do with my newborn, too. I was able to breastfeed from my remaining breast, and while I couldn’t feed directly after the radiation I expressed before treatment to make up for it. My mum came and stayed, friends rallied around to help and my husband did everything possible. I was worried how I’d handle new motherhood with cancer treatment, but in the end I enjoyed it all—we, of course, had our normal ups and down like all parents. When I was able to have the other breast removed and start the reconstruction, it felt like I was really moving on—it was very liberating to have no breasts after feeling so lopsided for so long.
Today I’m four years into five years of hormone therapy—a daily tablet and a monthly injection. I’d like to think that cancer has changed me in a good way. It’s certainly made me more appreciative of the small things. I try to share my story with as many people as I can to try and raise awareness as much as I can—especially young women. That's why the Pink Ribbon Breakfasts are so important to me. I want everyone to know that there’s a risk—but there’s also plenty of hope, too.
You can make a real difference to Australians affected by breast cancer by hosting a Pink Ribbon Breakfast and raising funds for life-changing breast cancer research. Register to host a Pink Ribbon Breakfast at www.pinkribbonbreakfast.org.au