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Christel wrote this blog for the Monkey & Mum Community, in the hope that her story would help raise awareness for all us mums.

Mel from Meloo Studios did the beautiful photos of Christel below, and is now working with both Christel and The McGrath Foundation to spread this message further. Mel will be sharing more of Christel’s journey on her blog.

Breathe, Laugh, Cry – The Keys To A Life Changing Challenge

Just when I thought I had this whole Mum, wife, work thing sorted life has thrown me a curve ball, and that’s curve with a capital C!

Hi, I’m Christel, I’m 37, a wife, mum to 6 year old Miss E and full time employee to a government department. I’m also a big control freak. In December 2015 my little family went on the trip of a lifetime to Disneyland California. It was magical, an escape from our reality and believe it or not Miss E was an angel the entire time and she was full of all the Disney sugar, fat and salt, so that is a miracle! When we got home we had a recovery Christmas, quiet school holidays and returned to school and work hoping to save enough to do a bigger return trip in 2 or so years. You could say we returned to normal!

But it wasn’t to last.

On a routine Friday morning in February 2016, I was in the shower, washing and singing (or trying to anyway) when I notice a large lump in my left breast. Doing a double take, strike that, 100 takes and checks, I got a little concerned. My Mum was staying with us and I showed her once out of the shower and she thought it was just a cyst and told me to monitor it. I was thinking that maybe I had injured myself in a play altercation with Miss E so thought I would just wait for a bruise!

10 days later, I was going to the local supermarket to grab some essentials with my Mum and Miss E and thought I would take the opportunity to see if my GP had an availability to see me as her clinic is in that same centre. Luck would be on my side as there was an availability within ten minutes. So I went and waited to see her. That appointment went quickly, I told her I had a breast lump I was monitoring and wanted checked, she did a physical examination and gave me a referral to the Breast Screening Clinic with strict instructions to ring immediately and if I didn’t have an appointment within 3 days to call her and she would get me one. I wasn’t yet freaking out, as I had been to the breast screening clinic 9 months prior to do base lining as my grandmother had breast cancer and I had a hormonal lump in my right breast – those tests came back clear with a recommendation to come back when I was 40.  So I rang the breast clinic, told them I had a lump and they asked me to come in the next day. When I got home I told my husband and he wasn’t worried so we just carried on as normal.

On the 24th February 2016 I dropped Miss E at school and ventured off on my own to the breast clinic. I was surprisingly calm, I guess doing it all 9 months prior I knew what to expect. It was a long day, lots of waiting around with what felt like 100 other women, most over 50. I didn’t talk to anyone, I tried to do some work and just focus on nothing! I saw the doctor, another physical exam was conducted and a look of concern was given, but no indication of bad or just a concern. I had a mammogram, I didn’t remember how much that hurts but it especially hurt on the offending left breast, I began to get teary. Then I was called for an ultrasound, lots of pictures were taken, I was thinking how these wonderful ladies that were looking at my breasts probably think their job is annoying just like I do mine! Then I waited.

I was then called back by the doctor and she told me that I needed a biopsy. She commented that I was calm and asked if I had any questions, I remember saying “It is what it is and we just need to move forward.” Don’t remember what else was said but I remember that. So off back to the wonderful ultrasound lady and my doctor extracted 5 samples from the lump. This is when I started to let reality set in, a few tears, lots of shaking and generally starting to feel fear. I was taken to a nice recliner, I got a few looks from ladies that would have known what happens prior to getting to sit in one of the reserved recliners and the tears began to fall (and are falling as I type this!). I rang my husband to let him know what was happening, cried some more, but not sobbing just continuous tears that I couldn’t seem to stop.

My doctor called me back and told me the results wouldn’t be back until the following day and to go home, rest and she would call me. I worked from home the following day, waiting for the call. I surprised myself and waited until 3pm before ringing to find out if my results had come in. I was advised they hadn’t and to go have a nice evening and they would call the following day. So off we went, dropped Miss E at dancing and then off to the local shopping centre to grab something for dinner. My mobile rang at about 5pm, it was the breast clinic doctor, my hubby and I took a seat outside a bakery and I was told I have breast cancer, the doctor was upset, I was reasonably in control but it all felt surreal. My hubby had tears, took my hand, we didn’t get the meat pie we had been on our way to get, instead we went straight to the car, drove to dancing, picked up Miss E and went home. I didn’t lose it until I walked in the house and that is when I ran to throw up and melt to the floor completely overwhelmed by what I had been told and what lay ahead. Those ugly sobs had arrived and lasted about 3 days.

My first thoughts were for my daughter and husband, not myself, this is when I realised that I am a good Mum and wife, I want to be here for them, I didn’t want them to have to go through this journey but we have too. So I began calling my family and friends to notify them of the news. I was calm telling them all, well calm on the outside, all were obviously shocked, some cried and offered to do whatever I needed. 

And then my focus shifted to begin my breast cancer journey and the importance of my family and friends and maintaining my warped sense of humour, allowing myself to cry and reminding myself to breathe.

Until next time, please love your curves and take the time to check them routinely, use a reminder, set a date every month, use an app like Curve Lurve, check in with friends to remind them and don’t forget the men, they may like to help with the routine checks but it is just as important they check their breasts too!