When single mum of three, Selena Elphinstone was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, she relied heavily on her McGrath Breast Care Nurse Tracey Beattie. Selena’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at 39 and impressed the importance of self-checking on her daughters. Tracey was instrumental in ensuring Selena’s children were looked after and even rearranged one of Selena’s pre-surgery appointments so she could attend her daughter’s Year 6 Leavers Dinner.
Breast health has always been important to me because my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 39. I was vigilant in conducting regular self-checks and planned to start getting regular mammograms when I turned 45.
When I was 42, I felt a lump in my breast and booked in for a mammogram. The BreastScreen bus was due to arrive in town in a few weeks. Fortunately, the lump I had found was benign, but the mammogram picked up some other lumps I couldn’t feel.
Further testing revealed these lumps were cancerous. Early stage, but cancerous.
Because of my family history, I didn’t want to take any chances, so I decided to have a double mastectomy and reconstruction, as well as genetic testing. The testing came back negative which was a relief.
Breast Cancer Experience
I’m a single mum of three and my kids were my main concern. Tracey was incredible in helping me manage with the kids as I wanted to ensure there was a little disruption to their lives as possible.
I was scheduled for two surgeries in December and one of my pre-surgery appointments clashed with my daughter’s end of school year assembly and Leavers Dinner. It was really important to me that I was there, so Tracey re-arranged my appointment so I could attend.
As well as the practical support, Tracey was also really helpful with the emotional side of things. My breast cancer diagnosis was so overwhelming, and Tracey really helped me cope.
At the time of my diagnosis, I worked full-time as a real estate agent, but I wasn’t able to continue working through my treatment. Tracey put me in touch with some support services and my sister flew into Burnie to help with the kids while I was in hospital.
While I was recovering, a friend from Albury came to help as well. The whole experience has shown me how incredibly resilient my kids are.
Finding Her New Normal
My employer has been fantastic so I’m back at work and although I’m still under a lot of pressure financially, I’m really positive about the experience. The cancerous lumps never would have been found by self-checking and if I’d waited until I was 45 for the mammogram then the cancer could have progressed and spread.
I’m so grateful the cancer was found early and now I refer to the benign lump as my guardian angel.
I’m determined for something good to come out of this so I now talk about the emotional and financial impacts of breast cancer wherever I can. I gave my first presentation at the local football club just five weeks after surgery. It’s a cathartic experience.
I’ve also become a real advocate for McGrath Breast Care Nurses.
I don’t know how I would have got through this without Tracey. I didn’t really talk about my breast cancer with my friends while I was being treated. Tracey was there for that.