Woman's harrowing honeymoon revelation: 'My worst nightmare'

·News Reporter
·5-min read

Breast cancer patient Bec Pene understands the importance of early detection when it comes to a cancer diagnosis.

Now she's sharing her story to ensure others get checked as soon as possible, despite the difficulties of getting a breast screening during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bec, a 35-year-old mum from Sydney's North Shore was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer after discovering a small 1.5cm lump. With no family history of breast cancer, her diagnosis came as a shock.

But she says she’s extremely lucky it was caught early.

“It makes a huge difference for cancer to be detected early,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

Bec Pene with no hair after breast cancer treatment. Source: Supplied
Brave Sydney mum Bec Pene has shared her breast cancer story. Source: Supplied

“My cancer was quite aggressive and was graded stage three which means it can spread faster. It had spread into one of my lymph nodes but luckily didn’t spread beyond that.

“You can’t die of breast cancer specifically, but you can die if it spreads to other parts of the body like your liver or your lungs or your brain.

“So finding it while it is still in your breast and hasn’t traveled throughout your body is really important.”

Bec found the lump three weeks after her wedding, while on her honeymoon. She had turned 33 just a few months earlier.

“What was supposed to be one of the happiest times in my life turned into my worst nightmare when I heard the words: 'I’m sorry I don’t have good news, it’s cancer',” she says.

“My world fell away from me and I screamed. I was absolutely terrified. All I could think was: ‘I’m going to die, I don’t want to die’.

Smiling bride and groom look at each other on a beach. Source: Supplied
Bec on her wedding day, she found a lump in her breast on her honeymoon. Source: Supplied

“You see I associated cancer with death. I never thought you could get cancer and live a long life afterward. I thought cancer was a guaranteed death sentence.”

After a clear bone and CT scan, Bec went on to have an MRI, mammogram, more ultrasounds and a few more biopsies. It was confirmed her cancer had spread to her sentinel node.

“I had a double mastectomy with axillary clearance. I got clear margins and luckily only one positive node. It was a fantastic result,” Bec says.

Just as Covid numbers were starting to rise, she was nearing the end of her five-week radiation treatment.

Why she's sharing her story

While she knows she’s not alone, with the Covid-19 pandemic impacting millions across the world, Bec says it’s important to acknowledge the impact it has had, particularly on the early detection of health issues.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, currently impacting more than 230,000 women and men.

“It’s really scary the number of mammograms that have been missed because of Covid, because it means that people may be diagnosed at a later stage so they could have a worse prognosis,” Bec explains.

Breast screening facilities were temporarily suspended across NSW due to Covid-19 from August 19.

The BrestScreen NSW website states the closure was due to the increased risk of the Delta strain along with the need to “redeploy staff to support the pandemic response at each local health district”.

Bec shared her concerns on Facebook recently in an effort to prompt others to get checked and to shine a spotlight on the importance of early detection, speaking out during to mark Breast Cancer Awareness month in October.

“Covid has had a huge impact on breast cancer screening. Delayed mammograms, people avoiding seeing their doctor for their concerns until 'after this is all over'.

"The impacts from this will be seen until 2030 with women and men being diagnosed at a later stage,” she wrote.

“If you feel something is wrong don't ignore it.”

Woman in cancer ward. Source: Supplied
After successfully treating her Breast Cancer, Bec is warning others to get checked early if they think something isn't right. Source: Supplied

Apart from breast screening facilities being suspended, Bec says cancer patients have had other difficulties throughout the pandemic, including not having in-person support from family and friends.

“For me, the other impacts that Covid has had are on my regular check-ups. So like many others, I can’t take anyone with me to those appointments,” she explains.

"I also went to the hospital this year for surgery and no one was able to come in and visit me.

“Usually, I would have my five-year-old come in with my husband and my mum and my sister for support, but none of them could come in and see me.”

She knows first hand it is impacting other cancer patients too.

“I’ve connected with a few other women in a similar situation to me and one had been told that her cancer had returned and she was by herself because no one could be with her,” Bec explains.

“It’s the worst feeling in the world. I can’t imaging hearing that type of thing and you don't have your support there.”

Breast Screening facilities to re-open gradually

BreastScreen NSW announced on Thursday that they are currently working to once again reopen screening facilities around NSW with a “gradual” approach on a case-by-case basis.

“As clinics re-open, we will be prioritising women who had their appointment cancelled during the suspension to rebook their appointment as soon as it is possible in their local area,” an announcement on the BreastScreen NSW website reads.

There are a number of locations that have already begun operating but the website says it may take "some time" before all screening clinics are open again. 

To see the full list of clinics which are currently open, visit BreastScreen NSW.

For updates on openings and when new bookings will be available, check the BreastScreen Facebook page.

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