Mother diagnosed THREE times with triple negative breast cancer

Mother of two Wendy Dean was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in August 2015 after a routine checkup discovered a small but dangerous 15mm tumor in her right breast.

Wendy, from Queensland, was about to pick up her daughter from school when she got the ‘life-changing’ call from her doctor to discuss the results of a mammogram.

Despite a double mastectomy, the cancer returned twice and the possibility of dying loomed for five years.

‘What was even more terrifying was the thought of leaving my children behind’ Wendy, now 51, told FEMAIL.

The ‘rare’ cancer is hormone fueled and unresponsive to hormone therapy treatments — which make up 15 percent of all breast cancers.

Wendy Dean (pictured), from Queensland, Australia, was diagnosed with ‘rare’ triple-negative breast cancer at age 45 after a routine mammogram discovered a small tumor

Despite a double mastectomy, the cancer came back twice and the thought of dying loomed for five years

Despite a double mastectomy, the cancer came back twice and the thought of dying loomed for five years

From the age of 40, Wendy had annual mammograms, but one Friday afternoon after a routine checkup, she had to stay in the waiting room before having a CT scan and biopsy.

“When doctors told me they’d found something, I thought, ‘How bad can it be?'” she said.

Wendy had no symptoms or ‘warning signs’ but has a family history of cancer.

Wendy had no symptoms or 'warning signs' but has a family history of cancer

Wendy had no symptoms or ‘warning signs’ but has a family history of cancer

“When I got a call the following Monday, I walked straight to the office of my colleagues who were holding my hands when the doctor told me I had triple-negative breast cancer — and honestly, I don’t remember much after that,” she said.

From there, she had numerous appointments with doctors, oncologists, and plastic surgeons to discuss the next step.

It wasn’t until January 3, 2016 that she underwent a “massive” six-hour surgery to remove both her breasts and insert “breast expanders” — empty breast implants that inflate over the course of six weeks.

The following month she woke up in excruciating pain and her right breast was inflamed, red and infected, forcing her to stay in the hospital for 11 days to drain and remove the implant.

“The most excruciating pain I’ve ever experienced was when doctors put a PICC line in my arm to get antibiotics into my body faster,” she said.

Fortunately, she did not need further treatment.

“The possibility of dying was terrifying, but what was even more terrifying was the thought of leaving my children behind,” Wendy, now 51, told FEMAIL

Wendy called 2017 the “year from hell” as she was re-diagnosed in February after the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes in her right armpit.

“So many people think you can’t get breast cancer after a double mastectomy, but you can and I can,” she said.

Contrary to the initial diagnosis, in April she began 12-week chemotherapy treatments that “destroyed” her arteries due to the drug’s toxicity.

“I lost my hair, got bloated, felt constantly nauseous and lethargic — it was horrible — then I got shingles and septicemia (a blood infection),” she said.

Wendy then underwent radiotherapy treatments after chemotherapy.

Later that September, Wendy said she was in “survivor debt” when her mother-in-law Sandra died of lung cancer.

“I remember attending the funeral and thinking, ‘I really hope my kids don’t have to go through this,'” she said.

Wendy called 2017 the 'year from hell' as she was re-diagnosed in February after the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes in her right armpit

Unlike the initial diagnosis, she had chemotherapy and radiotherapy when the cancer returned in 2017

Wendy called 2017 the ‘year from hell’ as she was re-diagnosed in February after the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes in her right armpit

In January 2018, she thought her experience with cancer and her fear of going through treatment was finally over – but one day while relaxing in the lounge at home, she started feeling under her armpit.

As her nine-year-old daughter walked out of the bathroom, she noticed Wendy looked pale and immediately they both knew the cancer had returned.

“I felt a hard lump that wouldn’t move and then my daughter said, ‘It’s back, isn’t it,’ and we both burst into tears,” she said.

“Information is everything, so I didn’t panic until I knew what was going on.”

Doctors determined that the cancer returned and she was then given another 12 weeks of radiotherapy.

How to self-examine your breasts:

Step 1: Start by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.

Here’s what you should pay attention to:

  • Breasts that are their usual size, shape and color
  • Evenly shaped breasts with no visible distortion or swelling

If you notice any of the following changes, bring them to your doctor’s attention:

  • Dimples, wrinkles or bulging of the skin
  • A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed in instead of protruding)
  • Redness, pain, rash, or swelling

Step 2: Now raise your arms and look for the same changes

Step 3: While standing in front of a mirror, look for fluid coming out of one or both nipples (this could be watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood)

Step 4: Then feel your breasts while lying down, use your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping fingers flat and together

Step 5: Finally, feel your breasts while standing or sitting

Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and smooth, so they like to do this step in the shower

Cover your entire chest using the same hand movements as described in Step 4.

Source: breast cancer.org

“After the third diagnosis, you really start to think this is going to be it, this is going to kill me,” she said, starting to think about whether she wanted a funeral or not.

To cope with the fear of losing her battle with the cancer, Wendy turned to a psychologist to help her mentally and learned to practice gratitude and “embrace life.”

“Now I just appreciate how lucky I am to have watched my kids grow up and hopefully grow old,” she said.

“At least this made me a stronger person than I ever was and taught me who my closest people were really there for me.”

Wendy has been tested regularly since 2019 and has not been freed from the cancer indefinitely, but does have annual checkups.

With anyone who gets cancer, Wendy said make sure you “wake up and get up” and “always put one foot in front of the other.”

Wendy shares her story with hundreds on Instagram under the name ‘The Surviving Narrator’.

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