The reality of joining the ‘stage 4 cancer club’ at 27.

Emily Harrison was 26 years old when she first noticed a lump in her left breast. She didn’t think much of it at first, assumed it would go away. It wasn’t until she mentioned it in passing during a conversation with her parents, that she decided to visit her local GP. 

“It’s probably just a cyst, but let’s get you an ultrasound anyway,” the GP told Emily. It was at that appointment that she realised something wasn’t right. 

“I remember the technician lingered for a long time on the lump, and then went to grab his supervisor,” says Emily.

A biopsy revealed stage 3B breast cancer. For a few days, everything was a blur. Just 12 months earlier, Emily was at the end of an eight-month trip around Asia and Europe, and was about to fly home after spending two months in Japan with her partner. 

Now, she was confronted with the prospect chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and — possibly — a life without children.

She chose to freeze her eggs, and after undergoing IVF, Emily began chemotherapy. 

“Fortunately, the only cancer found was the one in my breast. They did see an enlarged lymph node which suggested the cancer had started to spread through my lymphatic system, but they hoped chemo could eliminate the chance of this progressing too far.”

Emily endured 16 rounds of chemotherapy, and underwent a bilateral mastectomy where both breasts were removed, followed by radiation for five weeks. 

Around a year later, Emily felt some pain in her left rib. A couple of weeks later, a lump had formed.