Sarajoy Ly was just 32 years old when she was diagnosed. With not a single known risk factor that applied to her, she still got cancer. Her journey is remarkable and one that shows the true importance of the continued support of breast cancer research.
1. When were you diagnosed?
I was diagnosed on the 19th december 2016.
2. How were you diagnosed with breast cancer. What did you first notice?
I first noticed one of my breasts was larger than the other after i finished breastfeeding my son, just after his first birthday. I thought one of them was still full of milk and in fact, after the first two ultra sounds i was treated for mastitis, so even the doctors thought the same. I had no specific lump and at the time i was ignorant to the fact that breast cancer could present itself in so many other ways. My mum had recently been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and i was busy helping her through her treatment, so i put off a few more appointments that i should have, but i never imagined it might be cancer. Once i saw the specialist, he told me he didn’t imagine it could be anything other than cancer, one week later i got the test results to confirm his suspicion. I was diagnosed just 6 days before christmas, 3 months after my mum was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
3. How did you feel when you first received the news?
I was somewhat acquainted with the world of cancer at that time and bizarrely it wasn’t even a huge shock. A few minutes later when i learned that this could result in infertility long term and no more babies in the short term, i broke down. That was the toughest blow for me. and then to walk out of the room and tell my mum was even harder than receiving the news myself.
4. Has your life changed significantly since?
Yes and no. i think about this a lot. any parent knows that life is always changing as kids grow older, so i think it would have naturally changed anyway. But of course there are things we have to factor in. i had 4 surgeries, 30 rounds of chemo and 25 sessions of radiotherapy, plus countless hospital visits, appointments, scans, tests so that’s a lot of time away from my family. I used to have boobs, so i’ve had to get used to losing them. I gave up work so i could enjoy time with my baby, who’s not a baby any more, so i missed that and we had to cancel some big holidays we had booked.
Some really positive things have come out of this experience. I feel like I’m stronger now than I ever have been, mentally and physically, which is something I’m proud of. I’ve met some amazing people who I know will be lifelong friends. I started working again while I was waiting for appointments or having chemo and that in itself has turned into this beautiful small business that I absolutely love.
5. Why did you decide to become involved with national breast cancer foundation?
I am an outlier in all the statistics. I didn’t have a lump, I have never smoked. I don’t drink. I am extremely healthy, fit and active. I breast fed, I don’t have the BRCA gene, so there was not a single known risk factor that applied to me. Yet I still got cancer. So I just feel with more research we can find out why this happens and also find more effective ways of treating it.
Approximately 8 people die from breast cancer in Australia every day, so that’s a pretty scary number for me. It’s actually the most common life threatening cancer facing Australian women. The National Breast Cancer Foundation is working towards zero deaths from breast cancer by 2030, so when I think of what that means to me, that is before my son even reaches adulthood. Imagine how different stories would be for the next generation if this goal was realised. The only way to stop all these deaths is to fund more research.
The research that was done before my time of having cancer has meant that I have effective and affordable, targeted treatment, that didn’t even exist 10 years ago. It is my hope, my dream, my wish that everyone with any kind of breast cancer can have the same level of effective and affordable treatments. So this feels like my small way to help play a part in that.
6. So what’s next in your journey?
I finished my chemo in march 2018, 30 rounds in total, and i don’t have any ongoing treatment, just regular check ups. because of the type of cancer i had, i am at a very high risk of recurrence, so they will monitor me closely and we hope to beat the odds and live beyond 7 years post-diagnosis. I was always pretty health conscious before but even more so now, i use all natural products, which is why i love black chicken remedies products, have a plant powered diet and train 6 times a week. So aside from my flat chest, i’m pretty much just a regular gal these days.