Paula – “Breast cancer was never going to be my story.”
“Breast cancer was never going to be my story.”
Paula Collinson is one of five girls. Her oldest sister, Ann, was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago, so Paula was encouraged to have a mammogram each a year. Last year doctors found a lump.
“That day I just didn’t want to be there, but in the end that was a lifesaving appointment,” she said.
“To be told that, yes you have breast cancer at 45, when you have an eight year old and a six year old is devastating.
“I found it hard to reconcile that something that had given my children the nourishment they needed was now trying to kill me.”
Paula had a double mastectomy – to be sure the cancer could not invade her other breast, a decision she doesn’t regret
“Losing my breasts didn’t bother me, but later on your body appearance changes. Your stomach seems to stick out a bit more because you have nothing in front of you. So the changes were what I found really difficult.”
A Mother’s Struggle…
Having always been heavily involved in her children’s lives, Paula suddenly found herself struggling to get them ready for school in the morning.
“I became a mum who was relegated to the sidelines, I was unable to focus, do housework or drive… sometimes I was unable to laugh,” she said.
Luckily, the school community rallied behind Paula to help make meals and keep her updated with what was happening at school.
“One of the best things one of my girlfriends did was turn up every Thursday with a meal on my chemo week. She never asked me what I wanted she just arrived with a meal. It really always stuck with me that she did that.”
Since the surgery and following her doctor’s advice, Paula had a hysterectomy as she also had an increased risk of ovarian cancer. She has endured encapsulated sarcomas (an enclosed fluid pocket), a result of the mastectomy, which has meant several more surgeries.
Paula has chosen to keep her positive outlook on life.
“Cancer definitely changes your life. It changes your life forever. I probably live my life a lot better than I did before,” Paula said.
“I can lie on the bed with my 7-year-old and have cuddles with him and read him a story at bedtime. He goes to sleep and I go into the room next door with my 10-year-old and we sit there and talk about boys and ovaries and periods.
“Before cancer I’d say ‘kids I’ve got things to do, I don’t have time go to bed go to sleep’ and now that’s such precious time for me.”
Raising awareness for the children of today…
Paula is sharing her story as a way to raise awareness about the disease. She hopes Australian Breast Cancer Research can continue to find ways to cure and prevent breast cancer so the children of today will not be burdened with the pain and heartbreak of this disease.
“I remember being in the car with my daughter Jaimee when she said to me ‘mum when I get older will I need to worry about getting breast cancer?’ The question took me back and also saddened me, I took her hand and I said ‘I hope not my gorgeous girl’.”