Mum reveals challenge of ‘letting go of control’ during breast cancer battle
Sara Monaghan is terrified she will die from cancer, leaving her two young sons without a mum
Sara Monaghan is terrified she will die from cancer, leaving her two young sons without a mum.
The 39-year-old Sydney woman has had clear scans for two and a half years but quietly holds onto the fear the cancer will come back and she won’t be able to beat it.
Speaking to FEMAIL Sara admitted she kept a brave face when she was diagnosed with hormone-positive breast cancer.
The mum-of-two’s cancer journey started in the shower just before Christmas in 2019 – when she felt a lump on the bottom of her left breast.
She initially thought it was nothing but decided to ask her doctor during a check up in February ‘just in case’.
The doctor ‘wasn’t too concerned’ but sent her for an ultrasound ‘to be safe’.
As soon as the picture flashed up on the screen Sara knew something was ‘seriously wrong’.
‘When I was having the ultrasound I could see a mass, I usually can’t identify anything on ultrasounds,’ she said.
‘The technician told me then that I would need to have a biopsy to check it out, she looked me in the eye and told me not to leave it too long.
The mum-of-two tried to keep a brave face for her family despite having to endure 12 months of harsh treatments
She has secretly harboured the belief the cancer will take her life, and take her from her husband and sons
‘I just burst into tears and called my husband.’
Sara had her biopsy the following Monday – and her fears were confirmed two days later when her doctor called her into her office ‘on time’.
The next few weeks rushed by with Sara facing ‘wave after wave’ of decision making, from whether she wanted both her breasts to be removed to the kind of implants she preferred and whether she wanted doctors to save her nipples, if they could.
‘This was at the time when certain implants were being taken off the market because they had been linked to different types of cancer,’ she said.
‘So there was a lot of information coming at me and no time to process it.’
She also had to decide between chemical and medical menopause and to sign off on technical treatment options.
Once the first round of decision making was done Sara started 12 months of brutal treatments. She said radiotherapy was ‘a walk in the park’ compared to chemo.
‘When you start they tell you everyone reacts differently to each treatment, you can have a marathon runner who suddenly can’t do anything or a 65-year-old who feels fine,’ she said.
Sara fell somewhere in the middle.
‘I remember three days after my first chemo session I went in to school to get my kids and struggled to walk in to collect them,’ she said.
She felt weak, tired and like she had no control over anything in her life, including her own body.
‘I am a control freak, letting go of everything was hard for me mentally,’ she said.
It was then she met a breast cancer nurse who ‘changed everything’.
‘She was the first person who told me I could control how I felt through exercise.’
Sara revealed having to give up control ‘of everything’ following her diagnosis was hard
Sara ended up managing her fatigue and mental health by keeping active, with some friends joking she looked too good to be going through cancer treatment.
‘I used to joke I had “that chemo glow”,’ she said.
‘Looking back I realise how atrocious I looked.’
Sara has been given a 10-year survival window by her doctors, one of the best outcomes possible for women with her type of cancer.
‘Even if academically you have a 99 percent chance of survival the one percent you are missing plays on your mind,’ she said.
‘We lose women every day to this disease, nine women every day, so there is that feeling of not having any control.
Despite the persistent fear, Sara tries to stay positive.
Sara says she will be on treatments for the rest of her life – but is content as long as that life is long
‘It is a lottery, sometimes women like me who are stage three are lucky and the cancer never comes back again,’ she said.
And while she knows things will never ‘go back to normal’ her life doesn’t revolve around cancer anymore.
‘I used to wake up and think “Oh that’s right, I have cancer”,’ she said.
‘Now I wake up when my alarm goes off and hope my kids aren’t up yet, so I can have a few more minutes without being hassled,’ she laughed.
Sara’s treatment changed they way she lives her life day-to-day.
Sara says she feels she aged 10 years in 12 months after getting cancer
‘I feel like I aged 10 years,’ she said.
‘I have post-menopausal skin now too, so I take more care of it now than I once did.’
Sara now speaks publicly about her battle with the life-threatening disease and how she chooses to live her life with extra kindness, love and drive.
She will be on ‘some form of treatment’ for the rest of her life, but doesn’t mind as long as it is ‘a long life’.
She recently spoke at an even for ghd and the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
ghd is fundraising in partnership with the National Breast Cancer Foundation
In Partnership with the National Breast Cancer Foundation Australia (NBCF), ghd is celebrating the launch of its 2022 Limited Edition Pink Collection and 18-year ongoing partnership with breast cancer charities worldwide, raising over $22 million for the cause.
This year, ghd will continue their support by donating $20 from every limited-edition Pink purchase to the National Breast Cancer Foundation in Australia.