Rhianne Miller is Solaris Cancer Care's 2020-2021 Ambassador. Currently working as Gage Roads Brewing & Co's Brand Ambassador, Rhianne penned out how life changed drastically for her at 32 years old with a Stage 2 Breast Cancer diagnosis.
“In order to move forward you need to reflect back sometimes, a journey like no other, one that’s all me, totally me!
It was October 11, 2018…life was good, I was a week into being 32, I’d been nominated for top 6 beer reps in WA, I was planning my next big holiday and I was just so happy, I literally proclaimed on my birthday that this was going to be my year….finally!!!
Little did I know I gave the universe a segway to say: ‘oh yes girl, it’s going to be your year, a year you find and understand yourself in a way you never imagined.’
And that’s when it happened: I found a lump while checking my handy work at applying a fake tan. Safe to say, I got a little more than a summer glow from this tanning session. So, if someone ever says to you that a fake tan may save your life, it’s a thing!
I go to the GP that same day, I’m examined, then, get referred to go for an ultrasound, mammogram and biopsy. The next couple of days are awkward and painful. But then the waiting game for the results begins…which in some ways is even more painful.
I didn’t have to wait long though; in just a few days my GP was telling me my new reality. Stage 2, grade 3, triple positive breast cancer! My 1 lump was actually 3 and that meant I’d need a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation!
Fast forward 2 weeks, it’s Oct 29 and after a series of surgeon appointments and more referrals, I’m on the operating table saying goodbye to my right breast.
It wasn’t easy, the weeks leading up to surgery were the most emotional of my life. Telling your family & friends is what gets you. You re-live it every time you have to tell them and hear the pain in their voice. I squeezed a trip to Bali in before my surgery and found the acceptance of the whole situation that I needed to be able to do a social media post telling the rest of my world my current reality.
In a word – OVERWHELMING is an understatement. The love and support I felt from the comments left and the people who reached out was beyond anything I could describe in words.
Now this is a time for hugs, but hugs are painful because of the mastectomy. I had an expander put in as well, so it’s like putting a tennis ball under your skin and expecting it to be comfortable. It’s not. You manage to knock it on everything.
Over the next few weeks, I begin to heal and adjust, I see an oncologist, get my treatment plan, see genetics, go to a fertility specialist – that involves ultrasounds, injecting myself every day and having more surgery, just to give myself a chance to possibly have a family one day – being single, with no kids, and having this potentially taken away from me was a lot to work through, but I now know, I have 3 eggs in the freezer, so maybe one day that can be a thing!
During this time I get curious, I research enough to understand my situation, but not too much to overwhelm myself, that’s the trick, being told my cancer was on the move into my lymph nodes and borderline stage 3 was enough motivation to find a strength I didn’t know I had, this was the beginning of the new me, one that understands what’s important and what’s not.
I have 6 rounds of chemo ahead of me (every 21 days) with December 14 being round 1! As the oncologist tells you, your hair will start to fall out around 12 days later. Like clockwork it begins. On New Year’s Eve while on a friend’s boat watching my hair flying off in the breeze, I knew it had to go. So January 1, my 2 best friends shaved my head! It’s true what they say: it’s like taking your power back, it’s liberating, it’s momentous, it’s a defining moment, you also don’t have hair falling everywhere….but I embraced the hell out of it and rocked that bald look every day. Apparently, I have a good shaped head.
My support network was insane, I never knew how many people valued me in their life. Friends organised fundraisers, my 3 closest girlfriends shaved their heads to raise money and stand with me, so I was not alone in bald life…what an emotional day that was!
The next few months are trying, treatment gets harder each time, but I am determined to do everything in my power to be OK. I start doing energy work, seeing healers, massage, reiki, healing touch, acupuncture, meditation, adjust my diet, do a photo shoot. I give my body & mind every possible chance to get through this. It’s fascinating what your body can withstand when you work from within, I learnt early on that mindset is 90% of the battle and your body will get you through anything.
It was during this time I started to utilise Solaris Cancer Care at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and the support, treatments and understanding that comes from the team of amazing humans is second to none. I made sure to pop some money in the donation box every time, a small gesture, but how else do you say thank you to strangers being there for you through the most difficult time of your life.
I’ve had my share of setbacks, complications, victories and trying moments…I’ve watched my skin burn from radiation, endured a failed reconstruction, had needles as thick as iPhone cords come at me, and more surgery ahead of me. This journey of mine has not been easy, but every day I tell myself, be the exception, not the statistic!
I want you to know that this isn’t a sad cancer story. This isn’t one that says F Cancer. I was never able to say that once; it doesn’t deserve my energy in that way. I took away from this situation that it’s an opportunity to understand me. I have changes I need to make in my life that I’ve been ignoring and I 100% used this journey to become whole again, even with bits missing! I clearly never lost my sense of humour along the way either.
My journey isn’t over though. I still have 5 years of targeted therapy medication that puts me into early menopause, or as my friends like to call, into my “power surges”! A thing I never thought I’d have to experience twice in life, yes, this one doesn’t cancel out the real one…if only!
It’s the proudest moment of my life to see who I’ve become in the process of all this, so confident, inspired by myself, and understanding how lucky I am to have an appreciation of life to this degree at only 33.
So let’s all stand together and help Solaris Cancer Care, not only to offer treatments & support, but to allow people like myself to find their power, find their strength, and find their voice every day during their journey. Cancer can sometimes inspire great things amongst the heartache it creates.”
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