Carla contacted us and asked if we could share her video. We were all leaking from the eyeballs and wanted to honour her and her family’s courageous efforts on how they managed to push though such a terrible time as a family, together. As narrated by Carla:
The true story of how I lost all my hair and one breast and became a Dragon Fighting Warrior Princess…
I am a mum of three young children and live in Sydney Australia.
In December 2013 (on Christmas Eve!), I was diagnosed with breast cancer. To be precise, I had a 4cm hormone positive and Her2 positive tumour in my right breast and a 1 cm lymph node that was cancerous. A few weeks after diagnosis, I had a lumpectomy. The pathology showed that not all the cancer was removed, so two weeks later, I had a mastectomy. My oldest boy was five at the time, and the mastectomy was scheduled as his very first day of school.
After the operations, the oncologist said I needed 6 months of chemotherapy (4x AC, 12x taxol), then 25 daily radiation treatments and finally, 17 Herceptin IV infusions. I must have had about 130 days with medical appointments in the 15 months following diagnosis. There were many days that I felt weak, sick, tired, nauseous, anxious and depressed.
My children were 2, 3 and 5 when I was diagnosed. I told them about my diagnosis and I explained what cancer is and what my treatment would involve. Cancer are some cells that grow out of control and keep on multiplying. You have to remove or destroy them if you want to be healthy.
The surgeon was going to cut my breast off to remove the cancer. Then chemotherapy would aim to destroy all fast-growing and dividing cells in my body (like the cancer cells), but it would also destroy the healthy fast-growing cells like those that grow hair. That is why my hair would all fall out.
By the time Alex’s birthday would come around in March, I would be bald. By the time Anna’s birthday would come around in September, I would probably have a little bit of hair again. Radiation was aiming to destroy any cancer cell that might still lurk around in the chest and axilla area.
My children understood a lot of what I explained to them. I always kept them informed of what was happening, so they would never overhear a conversation between adults with information they didn’t know. I always told them first.
One Saturday, soon after my mastectomy and my first chemotherapy treatment, my family and I were having lunch and I spontaneously made up a story. The story was about how the previous night, when everyone was in bed and asleep, a bird pecked at my window.
She asked for my help, to fight a dangerous dragon. I got my sword and got ready to fight the dragon. When I found him, a battle started. The dragon managed to scratch me with his big sharp claws. He scratched my right breast off.
He then started breathing flames and burnt all the hair of my head. I finally managed to wound the dragon. He got scared and flew away, hopefully never to return. Then I came back home, jumped in my bed and had a quick sleep before I woke up with everyone else. I told them I might look like an ordinary mum, but my bald head and the scar on my chest are proof that I am secretly a Dragon-Fighting Warrior Princess.
Initially, when I was making up the story, I was thinking it would be a great story for my children. My boys love dragons and swords and fighting. My little girl loves princesses. So I thought the story would resonate with all three of them.
It took me a while to realise how much comfort this story brought not only to my children but also to myself. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and see a woman scarred by breast cancer. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and see a Dragon-Fighting Warrior Princess.
I finished active treatment in March 2015, and had my last surgery (the removal of my port) in May 2015. Now, I take an anti-hormone (Tamoxifen) pill every day. My doctors don’t know if the treatment destroyed all the cancer cells. Maybe the cancer cells are all gone and cancer might never come back. Or maybe it has already metastasised and I will start feeling symptoms of metastatic cancer next month on next year.
There is no way of knowing if the cancer is still present (as diagnostic test can’t pick up small bits of cancer), so I will have to wait and see. Based on my characteristics (size of my tumour, the involvement of lymphnodes, the type of tumour, my age, etc), my doctors say there is 75% chance that I will live breast cancer-free 10 years after diagnosis.
There is 25% chance the cancer will come back before that time and if so, I would die of metastatic breast cancer. Living with the fear of the cancer metastasising (spreading to other parts of the body) has been overwhelming at times.
In the September school holidays, we worked on making this video about our breast cancer experience. Working on this with my beautiful family has been cathartic. It was good to look back on the last two years and what we have been through.
It was really good to put the story into drawings and paintings, find photographs to go with the story, find the right song to go with the story. I bought a princess dress at the local charity shop.
We bought some wood at Bunnings and my husband helped make the swords and we all painted or own swords. Then my husband made some video recordings of me and the kids at a little castle in a local park. Finally, I put it all together into a 3-minute video.
The video has been a great way to communicate to others the impact breast cancer had and has on our lives. My middle child showed the video at preschool to his teachers and classmates. My eldest watched it with his teacher at school. We showed it to our family and friends who said they loved it. I feel so much more understood. Making the movie has provided some closure and I have been able to start looking forward again without being overwhelmed by fear. It is a nice thought that something positive has come out of this terrible experience.
Truly, cancer can rip out your health and fervor in life. But it can never break a family apart. The Dragon-Fighting Warrior Princess Carla has won her battles when she yields to her Family.
So, to all Warrior Princesses and Warrior Knights, continue the fight for victory, and healing are for those who persevere.