When Leanne was diagnosed with breast cancer at just 45, her thoughts immediately turned to her three children.
“My two youngest children were just 15 and 12 years old,” Leanne recalls.
“I was thinking about them and my husband and thinking about running our household, all of the things that mums think about.”
Because of a family history of breast cancer, Leanne had been thinking about undergoing a pre-emptive double mastectomy, just in case.
“I made an appointment to meet with a breast surgeon at Mater Private Hospital Brisbane, to discuss my options and figure out what I should do,” Leanne said.
It was just before Christmas and Leanne almost cancelled her appointment, but at the last minute decided to go.
During a breast examination, Leanne’s breast surgeon found a lump and was certain that it was cancerous.
One week later, Leanne had double mastectomy surgery.
Telling my family that I had cancer was just horrible. I think I was even in denial to begin with.
Just three months later, Leanne had to have a full hysterectomy as part of her treatment.
“My cancer was oestrogen positive, which meant that it was feeding on my hormones - the best treatment option for me was to begin menopause as soon as possible,” Leanne said.
“Sometimes I think about what would be worse, chemotherapy or entering into a five year pathway of menopause, well before it would have naturally begun.”
Two gruelling surgeries left Leanne feeling weaker, both physically and emotionally, and her need for support was immediate.
“When I came back to my room from the mastectomy, the Mater Chicks in Pink team had already been and left me things that I didn’t even know I would need,” Leanne said.
“There were two soft pink pillows, two because I had a double mastectomy - that were for cushioning against the stitches - but I found myself holding one like it was a teddy of some sort. There was also a writing set to help remember the huge amount of information that I was given, socks and information pamphlets as well.”
When the time was right, almost three years on, Leanne went to her first Mater Chicks in Pink support group for mothers.
“I am so grateful that support was ready and available for me when I needed it and when the time was right.”
“Now I can go and talk to the other ladies who are going through treatment and surprisingly, I am one of the older ones. As I am further into my treatment than most of them, I can give them hope that things will get better as time moves on.”
Providing a woman with the opportunity to attend counselling sessions to help her deal with the emotional impact of her diagnosis costs just $55, but it truly can change the world of a woman with breast cancer. A woman like Leanne.
This remarkable young woman is just 23.
Improving treatment for late stage breast cancer.
Friendship lives on, even when those we love have gone.
How do you prepare to say goodbye to those you love?