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Brisbane woman fights breast cancer with upbeat attitude

  • Brisbane-based Tara Simmons diagnosed with breast cancer in July
  • Reveals only symptoms that showed she had disease was a change to her nipple
  • Is currently having chemo with surgery and radiotherapy planned next
  • Believes in the importance of maintaining a good attitude in the face of unknown

Emilia Mazza For Daily Mail Australia

A 33-year-old woman diagnosed with breast cancer after noticing slight changes to her nipple hasn’t let treatment stop her in her tracks.

Brisbane-based Tara Simmons was told she had triple negative multi focal breast cancer in July after a doctor’s visit to ask about changes to her breast. 

Apart from noticing her nipple had become a little more sensitive, and didn’t look as ‘perky’ as normal, Ms Simmons said there had been no other symptoms. 

‘A friend had shared an article on Facebook listing all the signs of breast cancer,’ she told FEMAIL of her first indication something was amiss.

Apart from noticing her nipple had become a little more sensitive, and didn't look as 'perky' as normal, Ms Simmons said there had been no other symptoms of breast cancer

Apart from noticing her nipple had become a little more sensitive, and didn't look as 'perky' as normal, Ms Simmons said there had been no other symptoms of breast cancer

Apart from noticing her nipple had become a little more sensitive, and didn’t look as ‘perky’ as normal, Ms Simmons said there had been no other symptoms of breast cancer

‘I booked myself into the doctor’s the next day, and within another 48 hours I had a preliminary diagnosis of breast cancer, then a formal diagnosis once my biopsy came back. It was really quick.’

Ms Simmons started treatment within weeks of her diagnosis but because of the type of cancer she has, she doesn’t have any hormone receptors. 

This means she can’t have targeted therapy like a lot of the oestrogen and progesterone receptive cancers do.

‘It’s more common in young people too,’ she explains, ‘and multi focal means I have more than one tumour in my breast. And it’s also in my lymph nodes as well.’ 

Currently Ms Simmons is having neoadjuvant chemotherapy – a type of chemo that is often given to cancer patients after surgery.

While she’s half way through her treatment, more is on the horizon including a round of chemo on Christmas Day, something the bubbly mental health professional admitted ‘really sucks’.

A mastectomy is scheduled for the New Year, as is radio therapy, and possibly more chemo, if her tumours haven’t responded.

A doctor's drawing of her breast cancer, and the other areas it has affected including her lymph nodes

A doctor's drawing of her breast cancer, and the other areas it has affected including her lymph nodes

A doctor’s drawing of her breast cancer, and the other areas it has affected including her lymph nodes

Though coming to terms with how abruptly her life has changed, Ms Simmons strongly advocates for maintaining a positive outlook.

‘I have had this horrible thing happen which I thought I would react to quite badly but I have reacted to quite well,’ she said. 

The effusive 33-year-old said that though she’s had some ups and downs in the earlier part of her life, working with a psychologist to help her overcome anxiety and depression issues served her at a time she needed it most.

Though coming to terms with how abruptly her life has changed, Ms Simmons strongly advocates for maintaining a positive outlook on life

Though coming to terms with how abruptly her life has changed, Ms Simmons strongly advocates for maintaining a positive outlook on life

Though coming to terms with how abruptly her life has changed, Ms Simmons strongly advocates for maintaining a positive outlook on life

‘I feel like all the work I did on mental health stuff early, it wasn’t until my late twenties that I really started to feel the benefits.’

‘I am really thankful that I have just been able to get along and do what I do.’

While her hours at her job have dropped to part time, she said she’s been lucky that so far side-effects from her chemo haven’t made it impossible for her to continue working.

Ms Simmons said that so far she has been able to keep working part time because the side-effects from chemo haven't been too debilitating

Ms Simmons said that so far she has been able to keep working part time because the side-effects from chemo haven't been too debilitating

Ms Simmons said that so far she has been able to keep working part time because the side-effects from chemo haven’t been too debilitating

‘I haven’t had a lot of nausea, I have had fatigue and aches and pains, but right from the get go I have really invested in exercise and that’s been really helpful with combating what  they call ‘chemo brain’.

Ms Simmons also said staying close to people, and ‘being honest’ about where she is at had made a huge difference. Friends have since rallied to her cause and started a GoFundMe page to help her pay for medical costs in the coming months. 

‘I think being able to share and be able to reach out to people and say I need this at this point or I am fine. I think that has been huge,’ she explained.

Friends including illustrator Emily Nelson have rallied to Ms Simmons cause and set up a GoFundMe page to help her with upcoming medical costs

Friends including illustrator Emily Nelson have rallied to Ms Simmons cause and set up a GoFundMe page to help her with upcoming medical costs

Friends including illustrator Emily Nelson have rallied to Ms Simmons cause and set up a GoFundMe page to help her with upcoming medical costs

Friends and family are kept abreast of her progress via a closed Facebook page called ‘Tit’ll be alright’ where she writes openly about her illness.

‘When I first got diagnosed I posted on Facebook to let everyone know what was going on. I wanted to tell as many people as possible so that if people ran into me and I looked like crap, they’d know why.’

 I wanted to tell as many people as possible so that if people ran into me and I looked like crap, they’d know why.

Although Ms Simmons is optimistic about her future, she also knows that potentially there could be a recurrence of her disease.

Despite being faced with her mortality, she stands by the belief it’s important to enjoy her life now.

‘I am lining up everything in my life and thinking about what I want to achieve.

‘I am a musician as well and if I am going to be gone soon I want to release more music, it’s made me prioritise some of that stuff that I thought I had a bit more time with.

‘I have to do these things because it could be my last opportunity, and it may not be as well, I might be here for a long time.

‘But it’s making me think about those things that are really important to me, and getting them done,’ she concluded. 

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