'Tough Beautiful Chicks', Breast Cancer, by Suzanne McCorkell

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Lyn

I had resigned from my Job of 11 years a few weeks before my diagnosis in March 2011. The day before my lumpectomy on my left breast, my biopsy results came back from my right breast, it too had a tumour. When I returned for the pathology results from the lumpectomies on both breasts and lymph node biopsies, I found out that the surgeons had not gotten the margins in either breast and l had lymph node involvement in my left axillary. Also my tumours were oestrogen & progesterone positive and her2 positive (one of the most aggressive types of breast cancer). I was totally devastated about the margins and that the cancer had spread to my lymph system, and because of this, chose to have both breasts removed. I felt at that time that I would rather be here than have my breasts.

I recovered well from the operations and within three weeks had started my chemotherapy, which would last for seven months. I went on to have radiation for five weeks and have, as of August this year, finished Herceptin. I am now only on Tamoxefen for the next five years. My aim now is to enjoy a healthy lifestyle and contribute as much time as I can to raising awareness and funds for a Breast Cancer cure. I find I appreciate everything much more since my diagnosis. I am presently looking for a new job and would love to find a job that has some meaning and gives back to the community. As difficult as my diagnosis and treatment have been I feel I am a better person and I have gained far more than I have lost.

Paula:

I was diagnosed in October 2010, aged 35. At that time my children were one and three years old. It was devastating for my family and me and my life took a major detour. Five days after diagnoses, I started chemotherapy for five months. A single mastectomy took place after the first round of chemo, then more chemotherapy for about three months, finishing with five weeks of radiotherapy.

I am now 37 years old and my children are three and five. It has been about two years since being diagnosed and it has been tough for my husband, children and me. I am still in moderate treatment, receiving injections every four weeks to reduce my oestrogen. Depression comes and goes but I believe life can only get better now. I look forward to seeing my children grow up and watching all the milestones they will go through. I feel blessed that I have my children, my husband, my family and friends and cherish every moment with them.

Sadly, Paula past away in June 2013, just eight months after this photo was taken. We are so grateful to her family for allowing us to continue on our mission by using Paula's photograph.

Tammy:

‘Breast cancer survivor’ is something I never thought would be in the same sentence as my name.  Having worked at the PA Hospital in Brisbane for many years, cancer was something that always happened to other people and the patients we cared for. On the 31st of March, 2011 I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Soon after I underwent a right mastectomy, axillary dissection, 4 months of chemotherapy and 5 weeks of radiation.  I am still undergoing hormone therapy and will do so for quite a few years yet. 

When I was diagnosed all I could think of was my two boys, my husband, my family and friends…. I was only 43 and had so much more life to live. I knew the treatment for cancer would be hard but I just wanted to get the ball rolling.  There was no other option for me. Nothing could prepare me for the roller coaster ride called CANCER. People have said to me “I would never have got through this”…”I would never have survived”…”You are an inspiration”. But the saying that stuck with me throughout my journey was  “We don’t know how strong we are until being strong is the only choice we have”.  People deal with cancer in so many different ways… and there is no right or wrong way.  You just have to deal with it the best way you can, and mine was to live life like breast cancer was a disease that could be treated, not a life sentence. The very thought of not seeing my boys grow up was unthinkable, so I live life every day like I am going to survive and I live with hope. As Christopher Reeve said, “Once you choose Hope – Anything’s possible” and that is how I approached my breast cancer.  Hope is everything to me; I hope tomorrow I am here, I hope that one day there is a cure for cancer and I hope that very soon, less people will endure the pain and anguish that cancer afflicts upon its victims.

I am so blessed that during my journey I had so much love and support from my family and friends.  I was also fortunate to be able to form friendships with a group of ladies who shared my breast cancer experience.  This special group of women were my inspiration.  The friendships we have formed will last a lifetime. It was in the Oncology Outpatients where the TBC’s were formed…. We started as the “Tough Bald Chicks” during chemotherapy, the “Tough Burnt Chicks” during radiation and now we are simply, “Tough Beautiful Chicks” out there living our lives.  Some people want to leave their cancer journey in the past and forget it ever happened… but it is always there and rather than forget it I have embraced it with both hands and am out there with all the TBC’s raising awareness of breast cancer and raising funds for cancer research. The funds we raise go towards vital research; research that I may need in the future… my children, my husband, my family, my friends, or anyone.  Cancer does not discriminate and age is no barrier.  Cancer has made me so much stronger, stronger than I ever thought I was and my scar is a reminder of how strong I have become.  It is my special tattoo.  Some people have poems or inspirational words etched into their skin, as reminders of things that mean the world to them…. It may seem strange but my scar means the world to me. It saved my life and it will be a constant reminder of how lucky I am and to live each day to the fullest as life is so short for each of us. 

Just remember to live each day like it is your last with no regrets.

Nyree:

My scar means my life; without it I wouldn’t be here.  It represents my strength and it is definitely my battle scar. 

Naturally, there are times when I hate my scar and all that it means: cancer.  Cancer took away my carefree life and has replaced it with a whole range of new emotions, some good and some bad. 

Life should not be taken for granted; it is a precious gift. I am so thankful for my amazing family and wonderful friends and I make sure that I enjoy more time with them.   I met an incredible group of women, the TBCs, with the same scars and similar stories and I know that I’m not alone. Having endured surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, we are truly Tough Beautiful Chicks.

I am proud of my scar, of who I am and of what I have overcome.

Scar Stories TBC Breast Cancer by Suzanne McCorkell.jpg
I have gained far more than I have lost.
— Lyn
I will always feel a deep connection to each of those amazing, strong, happy women.
— Alicia
It was devastating for my family
— Paula
...my scar is a reminder of how strong I have become. It is my special tattoo.
— Tammy
Having endured surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, we are truly Tough Beautiful Chicks.
— Nyree