Fighting back – Michele Ferreira

At the age of 37 Michele Ferreira was in the shower doing her regular breast test when she felt a lump in her right breast.

She made an appointment to see her GP the following week and went for a mammogram and sonar and the report said there was no problem, no cancer, even though they marked an irregularity. Assuming it was just a cyst the GP referred to her to a surgeon to remove the “cyst”.

The surgeon had a look at the report and, because she was so young, had no risk factors, no family history and had an active exercise routine the surgeon took the report verbatim and decided that there was nothing to worry about. In the 10 minute appointment he advised her to go off the pill and use the patches and to “keep an eye on it, I’ll see you in eight months time”.

Due to the surgeon’s concerns about hormones, Michele decided to avoid any hormonal contraceptives – just in case – and carried on gyming and eating healthy and getting on with her life.

Six months later she was convinced that the lump was growing and, during breast awareness month, she went back to the surgeon. He said he was still sure there was nothing but let’s do a biopsy to make sure. Instead of a core biopsy normal fine needle aspiration the procedure involved a general anaesthetic and the removal of the entire lump at a day clinic.

A week later she went to see him for the results and he told her there was a problem. The “cyst” was actually an oestrogen and progesterone positive cancer. He recommended a single mastectomy the following week with a possible reconstruction in six months time and no need for chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

A colleague at work, Jacqui, had been through breast cancer with her mum and she recommended Dr Benn, as did many other friends, so rather than booking the single mastectomy – Michele went to see Dr Benn for a second opinion.

Dr Benn was so professional and so calm. She told her that everything was pointing to a good outcome but things would become clearer once the fiche results were in with regard to the HER2 status and once they had done a sentinel node biopsy.

The biopsy came back negative but the HER2 was positive, a mastectomy was required. In Michele’s words, she’s “a bit of a control freak!” She didn’t want to go through all of this and then have it come back in the other breast so she opted for a double.

Now, 15 months after first finding the lump Michele has had her “Red Devil”, and the bum fluff is growing. She has had the double mastectomy and has expanders in place. She has already started with the Herceptin and in about May next year, when she has finished the Herceptin she will start on five years of Tamoxifen and checkups every three or four months.

Michele has had fantastic support from family and friends – even the in-laws – and especially her husband Jacques, sister Leanne, her work and colleagues – they have all helped her to survive this difficult time with hope in her heart and her sense of humour intact.

Michele has been a keen exerciser her whole life and fiercely independent, making it really hard for her to ask others for help and dreading becoming a chemo couch potato. She has compensated for the lack of gym by trying to do plenty of walking but looks forward to the day when she can get her heart rate up again.

Leanne, Michele’s sister says, I am so proud of how Michele has handled this journey, she has been so brave and has been an inspiration to everybody.

Michele recently visited Bosom Buddies for the first time and enjoyed the interaction. She looks forward to getting involved and using her story to raise awareness of breast cancer in younger women and the importance of finding the right doctor.

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