ENCOURAGING WOMEN OF ALL AGES TO PERFORM REGULAR SELF-CHECKS FOR LUMPS IN THEIR BREASTS
At just 28 years of age, Hayley Walker was many things – mother to Oscar and Matilda, News Editor at Lifestyle Queensland, an artist and a seemingly healthy young woman – but what she wasn’t expecting was a diagnosis of Breast Cancer that resulted in her undergoing a mastectomy within days of being diagnosed.
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Hayley is encouraging women to perform regular self-checks – and to trust their intuition when it comes to their own health.
Finding a lump in her breast, Hayley went to a doctor who offered her an ultrasound.
Surprisingly, the results came back fine. However, the lump remained.
“It just didn’t go away,” she said. “It took six weeks before they agreed to give me a biopsy, then the person who did my biopsy didn’t preserve the cells properly so they called me in and said look, we think you probably have cancer… but we’re not sure.”
A second biopsy confirmed her worst fears – Triple Positive Grade 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.
“My first thought was my kids,” she said.
“I didn’t tell them it was cancer for ages. I didn’t want them to go to school and be like ‘oh my Mum has cancer’ and then someone say ‘well my Grandad died of cancer’.. I just said ‘Mummy’s really sick and has to take such strong medication that her hair falls out’.”
“It was only when I knew that I was okay that I said the C word.”
After undergoing countless rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, Hayley is now doing fine. While she still has to see specialists every three months and deals with the negative side effects of Tamoxifen (a drug that prevents breast cancer) she feels blessed to be healthy and be able to exercise daily.
In fact, the young mother describes cancer as “a blessing” in some ways. “I used to run around like a headless chicken,” she joked. “I think so deeply now: will this make me happy and if I did die would I be happy with how I lived my life?”
Giving up journalism to focus on her recovery, Hayley delved into her art full time, and produces an array of impressive artworks. Gorgeous landscapes and beachside paintings are alongside inspiring and uplifting works of art that are an inspiration to her network of those also affected by breast cancer.
Hayley urges women to check for lumps or abnormal changes in their breast. “I just don’t know how long mine was there. The quicker you find something, the better your prognosis.”
Women aged 40 and over can book a free appointment at BreastScreen – either at the Ipswich Health Plaza in Bell Street or mobile clinics: Monday to Friday 6.45am-5.30pm with some Saturday and evening appointments. If you noticee signs and symptoms of breast cancer, don’t hesitate, make an appointment on 13 20 50 or book at www.breastscreen.qld.gov.au