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Fit and healthy mom describes the harrowing moment she found a lump in her breast on Christmas Eve

Emma McKeown felt her best and healthiest as she juggled a busy work-life balance before receiving a shock diagnosis of breast cancer in January 2020.

While breastfeeding, the Sydney mother of three was always told to “run her fingers over her breasts regularly” to check for lumps or signs of clogged milk ducts.

On one occasion, before taking a shower, Emma, ​​now 36, noticed a lump on her left breast, just above the nipple.

“It was just before Christmas 2019, family came over from Singapore and Melbourne and I was waiting to tell my husband because it was such a hectic time,” she told the Daily Mail Australia.

The small, sinister nodule was only 1 cm wide and did not hurt when touched.

Emma McKeown (pictured with family) from Sydney was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer on January 14, 2020

Emma's husband Wade (pictured) accompanied her to the doctor's appointment and after hearing the terrible news, it was the first time she had ever seen him cry

Emma’s husband Wade (pictured) accompanied her to the doctor’s appointment and after hearing the terrible news, it was the first time she had ever seen him cry

After telling her husband, Wade, Emma went to the GP, who didn’t seem concerned, and then went for a chest ultrasound.

“While I was there, the sonographer asked if I had been punched or beaten recently, and I told her I have three children, so I wasn’t sure,” Emma said.

She wasn’t too concerned until the sonographer asked to call the doctor to ‘check’ the images.

During the appointment, another smaller lump was found and later an MRI discovered a third.

“All I thought was ‘now it’s definitely cancer,'” Emma said, although this hadn’t been confirmed at the time.

“The doctor said, ‘I don’t think it looks pretty, I’m going to send you for a mammogram right away that will determine if we need to do a biopsy’ and I was like, ‘Oh my god!!'”

While in the waiting room, Emma called her husband who helped calm her anxiety before going in for the mammogram.

A few days later, she had three needle biopsies and three core biopsies on the lumps, which felt “so painful.”

Emma had to wait the weekend for the results, which felt like the “longest” two days of her life.

“I was sure it would be bad news and my doctor, who is about my age, had to deliver the news that it was breast cancer,” she said.

Wade accompanied Emma to the meeting, and she said it was the first time she’d seen him cry.

“We just cried together in the doctor’s office and we couldn’t believe what was happening,” she said.

Emma found a lump on her left breast during a routine breast check.  Luckily she only needed surgery instead of chemotherapy and radiotherapy because the cancer hadn't spread

Emma found a lump on her left breast during a routine breast check. Luckily she only needed surgery instead of chemotherapy and radiotherapy because the cancer hadn’t spread

Emma was later diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer on January 14, 2020.

She has no family history of cancer, although her grandmother was diagnosed at the same time.

Fortunately, she only needed surgery instead of chemotherapy and radiotherapy because the cancer hadn’t spread.

Telling her three children, aged two, five and seven at the time, was a challenge.

“They were aware of the lump, but we had to figure out how to tell them,” Emma said, adding: “I didn’t know if they’d heard the word ‘cancer’ before.”

‘My youngest didn’t quite understand, but my oldest son asked, ‘Mama, are you going to die?’ and I said, “I don’t intend to,” which was very difficult.”

Telling her three children, aged two, five and seven at the time, was a challenging task.  'My youngest didn't quite understand, but my oldest son asked, 'Mama, are you going to die?'  and I said, 'I don't intend to', said Emma

Telling her three children, aged two, five and seven at the time, was a challenging task. ‘My youngest didn’t quite understand, but my oldest son asked, ‘Mama, are you going to die?’ and I said, ‘I don’t intend to’, said Emma

Emma was referred to a surgeon through the public health system and chose to do some research herself.

A month later, on February 17, she underwent breast reconstruction, but she was not happy with the appearance of the “tear implant.”

She said the left breast looked completely uneven on the right, which made her feel insecure about its appearance.

“I couldn’t be seen, I didn’t want my husband to see me topless, it was a real struggle,” she added.

After recovering from surgery, Sydney went into lockdown in March due to Covid restrictions and Emma had to be involved in her child’s online learning.

“As a parent, it was fun to be involved in what they were learning for the first time,” she said.

A year later, she had another surgery to “fix” her crooked breasts and turned to another surgeon for help.

Emma now takes a daily pill and will likely have the same treatment for the next five to ten years.

The cancer is hormone positive, meaning it grows in response to the hormone estrogen and needs to be monitored closely.

Emma encourages all women to self-examine their breasts regularly, as early detection is the key to beating cancer.

How to self-examine your breasts:

Step 1: Start by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.

Here’s what you should pay attention to:

  • Breasts that are their usual size, shape and color
  • Evenly shaped breasts with no visible distortion or swelling

If you notice any of the following changes, bring them to your doctor’s attention:

  • Dimples, wrinkles or bulging of the skin
  • A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed in instead of protruding)
  • Redness, pain, rash, or swelling

Step 2: Raise your arms and look for the same changes

Step 3: While standing in front of a mirror, look for fluid coming out of one or both nipples (this could be watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood)

Step 4: Then feel your breasts while lying down, use your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping fingers flat and together

Step 5: Finally, feel your breasts while standing or sitting

Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and smooth, so they like to do this step in the shower

Cover your entire chest using the same hand movements as described in Step 4.

Source: breast cancer.org

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