Ana’s Story – Menopause & Breast Cancer
My name is Ana Rocha. I was born in Lisbon, Portugal but came to live in South Africa when I was two years old.
Menopause started when I was 51 years old. Prior to that, except for hepatitis from contaminated water in Portugal, I was always a healthy person with no health issues.
But with menopause I suffered with hot flushes, fatigue and weight gain. Hormone replacement therapy was an option but I didn’t want to go that way because I believed it would increase my chances of getting breast cancer.
When I was 53 years old I happened to go for a routine check-up with a gynaecologist, and he sent me for a routine mammogram. The results were not good and I was sent to see a surgeon, who then sent me for a biopsy. He told me that in his opinion I had cancer and should prepare myself for a struggle.
After waiting two weeks I got a call from the doctor to tell me that the biopsy results were totally negative and that he was shocked because what he had seen on the mammogram looked like cancer. I was happy with the good news and decided to forget about doctors and cancer and move on with life.
At the time I was moving from Johannesburg to Cape Town and it was a big move and such a big transition in my life. Menopause was carrying on with its side effects of hormonal ups and downs and weight gain. Hot flushes and fatigue were on the increase…. I would take all kinds of natural medications and while some would help a bit, it still was not easy to deal with.
Two years had passed since I had gone for the biopsy when I began to feel a huge mass on my breast; I could feel it every time I showered.
By the third year, and because my life had settled a bit by then, I decided to go for another check-up and then for another mammogram. It ended up being repeat mammograms. Then the radiologist told me he would like me to go for a biopsy.
I was thinking that I had been here before, so I decided to go to a breast surgeon at a breast clinic. After looking at my mammograms he told me that a geographic mistake had been made on my last biopsy and that he was going to perform another biopsy. It was an incredibly painful biopsy, then three days later I got the results; it was breast cancer. My tumour was huge and he told me that I would need to have a mastectomy.
He also asked me if I wanted to have a test called MAMAPRINT done and that the test would allow us to know specific information on my tumour, with specific classification of the tumour and specific treatment for my individual case. I agreed to the MAMAPRINT test, and the results came back from Holland shortly after.
The tumour was not aggressive and it would not spread easily but I would have to do the mastectomy, radiation treatments and five years of Tamoxifen. They also specified that chemotherapy was not advised or necessary.
And that is exactly what I did. I opted for not having reconstruction done and so I wear a prostheses and a special bra. Tamoxifen made my life a living hell so I am now taking Letrozole with less side effects but still giving me ten times more hot flushes and making me put on weight…. also lots of body pain and fatigue.
I have been for three of my annual check-ups but still have another two to go through and another two years of tablets. I pray to God every day for this cancer not to come back and for my life to go back to normal after five very challenging years.
So this is my story and I hope it helps in any way.