REAL LIFE

I had a mastectomy at 27

Now brave Elle wants to help others

Aged just 27, Elle Veitch couldn’t feel a lump, but she knew something was very wrong.

Now she’s warning others about the signs to look out for.

Ouch,’ I cried, pulling on my bra.

My left breast was really painful, and it felt as though I had some sort of blockage there.

I’d noticed some discharge from my nipple too, along with sharp, shooting pains.

Feeling for a lump, I couldn’t find one. And neither could my GP.

So I was sent for an ultrasound, mammogram, and finally a biopsy. After an agonising three-week wait, I returned with my sister Grace, 25, for the results.

‘I’m sorry to tell you this but you have cancer in your left breast,’ my doctor said.

Stunned, I looked over to Grace, who tearfully took my hand in hers.

I was just 27 and two days later, I saw a breast surgeon.

‘You need a double mastectomy,’ he said. ‘There’s a lot more cancer in your left breast than thought and there’s a high chance you’ll develop cancer in your right breast too.’

Shocked, I refused, even though I had a family history of breast cancer, with two great-aunts dying of the disease.

Instead I would agree only to a lumpectomy.

‘Elle, it’s your breasts or your life,’ my mum, Maree, 61, said to me.

Her words sank in.

My family meant everything to me.

Supplied
Me and mum in hospital (Credit: Supplied)

So in December 2019, I entered Strathfield Private Hospital, NSW, for a double mastectomy.

I also had expanders inserted under the chest wall, so I could later have implants.

The surgery was meant to take four hours but due to several complications, it was nine hours before I was finally wheeled out of theatre.

By then, my family – Mum, my dad, Shane, 65, and Grace – were all beside themselves.

‘It’s okay,’ I whispered when I woke up.

I learnt that the surgeon had removed a 10cm cancerous lump from my left breast.

It was shocking that neither I, nor the doctors, had been able to feel it.

The next day, I couldn’t lift my arms or sit up without help and the pain was awful.

That’s when the emotional loss hit me.

I will grieve for my breasts, I realised.

Four days later, I was sent home to recuperate.

Feeling down, I clicked onto the website of the National Breast Cancer Foundation – NBCF – and saw the Go Pink campaign.

People could wear something pink or dye their hair to raise funds and awareness for people impacted by breast cancer.

So I dyed my hair pink, and immediately felt a bit of myself coming back.

I’d always loved to laugh but that part of me had been stifled since my diagnosis.

Then, I held raffles and posted videos to raise even more money and in three months I collected $16,000 for the NBCF.

Now, I’m planning to write a book for people with breast cancer.

And I make care packs for those undergoing treatment.

Having survived this journey, I now want to help as many others with this disease as I can.

You can donate to the National Breast Cancer Foundation at nbcf.org.au

Breast cancer

• Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Aussie and Kiwi women.

• It’s important to check your breasts regularly.

• Symptoms include lumps or thickening, shape and size changes, nipple changes, dimpling and discharge, persistent pain and
armpit discomfort.

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