04 February 2019
Anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer remembers the day they heard those three little words “you have cancer”. For mother of two Rachel Amey, who took part in the Marilyn Jetty Swim for the first time in 2019, that day came in July last year.
“A month before I received the phone call, I was lying in bed and noticed a lump on my left breast which didn’t feel quite right. We have a history of ‘lumpy breasts’ in our family, so I dismissed it as a hormonal imbalance and didn’t think much of it. Just to be safe, I contacted BreastScreen SA who referred me to my local GP. I had an ultrasound and mammogram and fine needle biopsy which all came back fine.”
“I thought I was in the clear but was referred to a specialist for a core biopsy – he took one look at my scan and said “that looks like cancer.”
Rachel immediately went in for the biopsy the next day and then received the call that changed her life forever.
“It was Monday, 23 July at 3.30pm when my phone rang. My specialist said “Rachel, I hate doing this, the results came back and it’s cancer.”
“I was in complete shock and devastation. I remember walking down the work corridor and bursting into tears. We have a really small workplace and everyone knew I was waiting on the results so my colleagues rallied around me straight away.”
“I remember calling my twin sister and we got in a fight. I told her I had cancer and she refused to believe me. They must be wrong, call your specialist, she said. When I told her it was my specialist who broke the news to me she was in complete shock. She caught a plane home to be by my side the next day.”
Rachel then underwent a scan of her lungs, liver and lymph nodes along with a full scan of her bones.
“I remember the day I got the phone call with the results of my scans just as vividly as the day I got told I had cancer. The specialist said that everything was clear and the cancer hadn’t spread any further. I cried for joy.”
In August, Rachel had surgery to remove the lump in her breast and then went back for a second surgery 10 days later to remove 11 of her left lymph nodes, only one of which had cancer. She then started chemotherapy in September, finishing her last session in early January.
“I remember every session. The first session I felt so horrible afterwards, then after a couple of days you come good for a week, feel normal and you get your appetite back. The worst part is knowing that it’s going start all over again.”
“It’s not just the cancer, you have to juggle everything, bills, mortgage and every day activities. It can be overwhelming. I rung Cancer Council SA and I was so fortunate to be able to talk to someone who understood what I was going through. They helped me to pay a huge water bill which was a massive help, especially as I had to take so much time off from work for treatment, which was impacting my wage. They have also offered to help me get a will drawn up, which I will work with them on this year.
Rachel says her diagnosis was an ‘awakening.’
“It made me realise that cancer can impact anyone, and it’s so important that we take advantage of screening, get ourselves checked and look out for changes in our body.”
She finished chemotherapy in early January and is now taking Herceptin until September this year. She is set to start radiotherapy in the coming weeks.
Rachel found out about the swim from a friend and decided it was the perfect time to do something to celebrate her journey.
“I’ve finished chemotherapy and haven’t started radiotherapy yet, so I’m feeling pretty good. It also just so happens that this year’s swim falls on my birthday. I’ll be doing it with my twin sister – we always make an effort to go out and celebrate on the day, and thought that we would go and have a laugh and do something different.”
“The thing that I love about the swim is that we’re all there for a common goal. Cancer is a serious, stressful topic and through the Marilyn Jetty Swim we can smile, have a laugh and join together to make a difference.”
“Until you hear those words you’ve got cancer, you don’t think it’s going to happen to you. It’s life changing. Which is why we all need to play our part and support each other. Together, we can make a real difference.”
Find out more about the Marilyn Jetty Swim.