In August last year, 33 year old Suzy Collyer was living her best life. She had recently become a first time mum to a beautiful baby girl called Imogen, and was loving life as a family of three.
After a year of maternity leave, Suzy was excited to return to work as a high school teacher. She loved her job and was excited to get back to her students.
Three weeks after returning to work though, Suzy noticed a change in one of her breasts.
“While I was breastfeeding, I had noticed a few lumps in my breasts but didn’t really think anything of it, as it’s not uncommon to get lumps and bumps on your breasts during this time,” Suzy says.
Three months after she stopped breastfeeding, Suzy noticed a significant lump in her breast and thought, ‘oh, what is this?’
As a first point of call, Suzy visited her doctor. As Suzy had no family history of breast cancer, her doctor wasn’t overly concerned, but sent Suzy for an ultrasound and mammogram just to be safe.
From there, things escalated fairly quickly. On the day she went to get her ultrasound and mammogram, Suzy was told she also needed a core biopsy straight away. It was then that her intuition told her something wasn’t right.
Three days later, her cancer specialist confirmed the worst—Suzy had Stage 3 breast cancer. She had a large tumour in her breast which had begun to spread.
Because of Suzy’s age, her specialist recommended six months of chemotherapy first, as they wanted to stop the cancer from spreading to the rest of her body.
Sadly, Suzy was also told that she may not be able to have any more children, and to consider freezing an embryo for the future.
“I think my fertility was the thing that shocked me the most. It was very emotional,” she said.
“Early on, I felt like all my decisions about my life had been taken away from me. You just lose your identity.”
Once Suzy’s embryo was frozen, she had her portacath inserted for chemotherapy. This was when Suzy’s specialist noticed that something wasn’t quite right with her lymph nodes.
Suzy’s specialist decided to take a few of her lymph nodes out to find out whether they were cancerous. Unfortunately, they were, but Suzy is so thankful her specialist decided to go with his gut instinct.
Soon after, Suzy started her chemotherapy treatment.
“I actually thought chemo was better than I expected. For me it just attacked my immune system,” she says.
“Losing my hair was hard. I had such beautiful long hair and now I don’t. I’ve changed physically, and it has been hard to realise that change isn’t always negative.”
Suzy has had a unilateral mastectomy and recently completed five weeks of daily radiation. In the not too distant future, Suzy will have another scan to find out if she is ‘cancer free’.
While Suzy still has a long road ahead, she says “there is no choice but to be positive. This has made me value my life so much.”
If Suzy could say something to those at the beginning of their journey, it’s that ‘everything is going to be okay, and you are stronger than you think you are’.
Your support of Mater Prize Home is helping vital research into breast cancer, which will benefit patients like Suzy.