Allie Geddes (they/them) shares their powerful and personal story of battling breast cancer in their 20s.
The year that I am first diagnosed with breast cancer, the UK experiences an unusual summer heatwave. I sit alone in the hospital, the backs of my legs sticking to the plastic chairs in the waiting room, knowing that the news about the biopsy of a lump in my right breast is not going to be good, because the Surgeon has asked for a Nurse to join us.
I drive to the hospital alone that morning because somewhere in the pit of my stomach I know that I have cancer and I know one of the few choices I can make will be to leave my family and friends unaware for just a few hours longer. This drive is the last hour of the “before”. There will never be another day in my life when I do not think about cancer. The “after” starts in August 2018. I am 27.
Being diagnosed with cancer under 30 is being told there’s “not a lot of data for your age and diagnosis”, it’s having conversations about not being able to have children, it’s going through medical menopause in a body that keeps letting you down, it’s texting friends asking when’s the right time to tell someone that you’re dating that you don’t have breasts anymore, its wondering if there’s even any point dating because who would get attached to someone who could just, die?
But, it’s also having an unwanted shortcut to finding the things in life that really matter; I have learnt that “no” is a whole sentence and I have learnt how to use it. I have discovered what propels me and brings me joy. I have located a more authentic version of myself because of the conversations I have (with sometimes strangers) about my experiences. I have realised I am more resilient than I ever thought I would need to be, but that by sharing my fragility too, I will make the most honest connections.
One of these connections that has been the most sustaining over the past few years, is with my McGrath Breast Care Nurse, Becky. There is so much identity loss as a patient, you become a number, a statistic despite best intentions. She has been there since day one of my reoccurrence in 2022; the joy of a familiar face when you have eight hospital appointments in various departments over one week. Becky cares so honestly about her patients; she ran after me recently as I came out of the Breast Unit, just because she had almost missed me and hadn’t yet seen a photo of my new nephew. To her, I am not a statistic, I am not a cancer patient, I am Allie.
Every single person experiencing cancer deserves a Becky. I am grateful and proud to be a part of this campaign that endeavours to ensure everyone does. I will never not wonder what my life would have been like without having gone through treatment for cancer twice, however I will also never not wonder at this life, this “after”. After all, I am still only 32.
Aussies can help more people like Allie by shopping the ‘McGrath Pink Edit’ throughout Breast Cancer Awareness Month, where 10% of all profits will go towards funding more McGrath Breast Care Nurses, available exclusively at THE ICONIC (https://www.theiconic.com.au/mcgrath-pink-edit/).
For more information on the McGrath Foundation, click here
Tracy Bevan shares her moving story about her best friend Jane McGrath who died tragically from breast cancer and how her incredible legacy lives on through the McGrath Foundation. To read our story about ‘What I miss about my best friend’ – click here.