A chance mammogram that saved Vivienne Interrigi's life

How a chance mammogram saved Vivienne Interrigi’s life


My Cancer, My Dance…

A dance that I did not want … yet I started,

Yuckiness that I never knew existed … yet I took,

Fatigue and exhaustion that numbs … yet I face,

Mentally and emotionally draining … yet I hold.

But ….

A time that I have learnt from,

Experiencing beyond belief love from all,

Pausing and rethinking what is important to me,

Finding a strength in me that I know now I have.

March 7th 2018 – the day I had a fluke mammogram that my doctor suggested, and the day my Cancer Dance started. I had not even felt a lump and there was nothing to actually make me worry at all that I might have breast cancer.

After my mammogram, I was sent for a biopsy that confirmed a diagnosis of breast cancer. This led to a lumpectomy, 6 months of chemotherapy, 20 days of daily radiotherapy and now, a 10-year treatment plan of infusions, monthly injections, and daily tablets.

When I see pictures of myself from that year, I think of how much I lost; my physical self, my emotional self, my mental self – it was difficult beyond belief and I sometimes wonder how I got through it. But it was also a year where I learnt to take one day at a time, one step at a time, one breath at a time.

I look back to March 7th and think how fortunate I was to have followed my doctor’s advice. I am alive because of her! If I hadn’t, I might not be sitting here today, my husband might not have a wife, my children might not have a mother, my parents might not have a daughter and my brothers might not have a sister.

My Cancer Dance…a random mammogram by a doctor who cared has kept me alive. 3 years on, I have a new normal. It is still not easy, but I am thankful I am here.

Since my diagnosis, I have learnt that anyone over 40 is eligible for a free mammogram with BreastScreen Victoria, that cancer cells can grow so fast – mine growing 3 mm within a matter of 3 weeks, that 57 Australians are diagnosed each day, 1 in 8 women will still die from the disease, and that 3000 will lose their life this year to Breast Cancer.

So, I choose to use my Cancer Dance in the only possible way I can make sense of it.

I choose to be a consumer advisor and a National Breast Cancer Foundation Ambassador, to share my Cancer Dance and to raise the awareness of how important research is to keep us alive. Every clinical trial, every research project, every experiment, gives me hope that my children would not need to go through the pain that I have been through, that my grandchildren will one day know cancer as a treatable sickness, that cancer will not come knocking on my door again. And if it did, my family would not need to watch helplessly as I struggle through the treatment.

My Cancer Dance…I did not choose it, but with ongoing investments into research, I am hopeful it will be a dance that no one needs to fear…a dance that will not tear families apart…a dance that will no longer be fatal.

Vivienne Interrigi is a breast cancer survivor and a National Breast Cancer Foundation ambassador. You can read more about the NBCF and its mission to end deaths from breast cancer by 2030 through continued investment in research on its website: https://nbcf.org.au/

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