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The Rock-itt : September 2011
Welcome to the fourth instalment of a story about Julie Knox, a courageous woman who is taking on the fight against the dreaded disease breast cancer, which began in 2009. During my chemotherapy treatment my daughter noticed a mole on my leg just above my knee which appeared to be growing and changing shape. She was urging me to get it seen to, however I was struggling with the chem o so I put it off for a while. W hen I eventually went to the doctor, he immediately excised it and did a biopsy. The pathology showed a grade 3 melanoma. It seemed that I had it seen to just in time but I still needed a much bigger removal to ensure that the melanoma did not spread. Thankfully the surgeon was able to avoid a skin graft because it would have taken a long time to heal while I was in the middle of chemotherapy. During my treatment I was also seeing a naturopath and having supplem ents to help my body cope. I feel this helped me to be able to finish my treatment. Even when chemotherapy was finished I still needed a cancer drug called Herceptin every 3 weeks. This was administered the same way as the chem o, through a porta-cath which had been inserted into my chest because my veins were very hard to find. This is a fairly new drug and I was very lucky to have been offered it to help me have the best chance at keeping the cancer from returning. The standard regime was 17 treatments. I tolerated this drug fairly well with only a few minor issues. Your heart muscle needed to be tested every three months by doing a gated heart scan in nuclear m edicine. When chemo finally finished we were looking forward to some time to recover but I was advised to start breast radiotherapy imm ediately. W e live in a regional area and there was no linear accelerator near us so we would have needed to travel three hours each day for treatment. However, Ed’s daughters kindly offered us the use of their hom e unit which was only ten minutes away from the cancer unit in their local hospital. W e gratefully accepted the offer which made my treatment much easier. We found the breast radiation tolerable. They were trialling a different way to give breast radiation over a shorter time but with still the same amount of radiation. My treatment was to four areas which took about ten to fifteen minutes each day for fifteen treatments, instead of the usual 25 treatments. My only side effects were extreme fatigue and some minor skin burning. I also found that it was difficult to have the treatments because I still had limited movement in my right arm due to the scar tissue from surgery. The time went quickly and it was nice to be able to spend some time with Ed’s eldest daughter, Sally, and her family. W e were glad to finally get home and for me to rest and recuperate, which we were told would take quite a few months. I was very eager to be involved in a program called Encore but I had to wait for my skin to heal first. I finally started Encore in October 2010. It is a program that is run for one night a week for eight weeks and is specifically for women who have had breast surgery. The format is a short support group and then floor exercises which are very gentle because participants are in all different stages of recovery. The aim is to increase arm and shoulder movements and they are also specific exercises to help lymphatic drainage and prevent lymphedema. After this, we then had about 45 minutes of movements in a hydrotherapy pool. I loved this program and made some really good friends and we continue to support each other. The encore program is in all areas and is run by the Y.M.C.A . I gradually started to feel stronger and my hair was slowly growing back. I quite liked it very short and a new silvery colour and celebrated when I had it cut and styled for the first time. However, as the encore program progressed I started to notice that I was having som e difficulties with some of the exercises and my right arm felt heavy. I thought that it might be lymphedema and did not worry too much at the time and continued on and enjoyed a lovely family Christmas. Lots of photos were taken with my family and all our lovely grandchildren, although Crystal was not with us on the day. Photos have always been important to me but seem more so now. I especially love photos of all our grandchildren together. After Christmas things turned for the worse again. Join us in October for Julie’s continuing story which has changed her family’s and her life so radically over the past 2 years. My Fight with Breast Cancer A serialised true account of one woman’s struggle to beat the odds By Julie Knox