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Isabella Lettini - Survivor

I was lying in bed in March 2010 and felt something that resembled a frozen pea moving around a little under my skin in my left breast. I didn’t think anything of it, and nor did my GP because it hadn’t attached itself yet.

On 11th June 2010 my doctor walked into the room while reading my results and announced, “Oh my god Isabella, you have breast cancer”. I can still remember that moment like it was yesterday. The announcement felt like someone had put a hot, searing knife into my heart and it was slowly spreading through my body. I was crying and about to faint. The strange thing is that my mother and father were booked in to see my GP the next appointment after me, this never happens. My mother knew as soon as she saw my face.


Initially, I couldn’t understand why I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was fit, healthy, didn’t drink excessively, didn’t smoke, had taken the pill in my twenties for about 3 years, and most of all no genetic predisposition of breast cancer or history of any form of cancer in my family.

I had surgery with a lumpectomy performed on 24th June 2010, the day that Julia Gillard had been elected as the first female Prime Minister of Australia. I was terrified of the surgery. My niece Ruby had given me a band-aid for good luck which I had stuck to my leg. My six month old nephew was there to also give me good luck, and he was a good distraction.

I had so much support from my family and all my friends. At one stage I said that for the very first time of my life I didn’t know what was in my fridge because friends would come over with food and groceries then other friends would come over and cook me something from what was in the fridge. I was very lucky. I was even luckier because the month after I finished my radiation treatment I fell in love with the most supportive person in the world. I was worried that nobody would love me again because I’d had the C-word but I was very wrong.

I had radiation for one month before work then went to work afterwards each day. The treatment didn’t affect me except for seeing very young children going in for chemo treatment with no hair, still wearing their pyjamas and clutching on their teddy bears. I didn’t need to have chemo but am on tamoxifen until October 2015. Sometimes I feel like I went through nothing because other women are far worse off than me because they had to endure chemo and some ending up with severe lymphodaema.

Every year since 2009 at least one of my friends has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, in Australia, we have the highest success rate and the best support. If it wasn’t for the BCNA/BCI I wouldn’t have had access to counseling and so much literature and support. Most of all I had the best medical team: Dr. James French (breast surgeon), Professor John Boyages (oncologist), Bronwyn Williams (nurse/friend) and Louise Koelmeyer (occupational therapist).

I am now in my fourth year and still going strong. I have never thought “why me” and have no regrets for having had breast cancer. It has made me the person I am today. I am a professional photographer and am now shooting breast cancer survivors for my Oncologist and hospital magazines. I am also participating every year in the Mother’s Day breast cancer walk and the Pink Ribbon Motorcycle Ride as my alter ego “Issy in Pink” wearing a pink tutu and a long pink wig with shiny pink Doc Marten boots.


 I have made a promise to my family and friends that if I make it to my 5 years, which coincides with my 50th birthday, I will be getting my first ever tattoo. I am trying to think of designs but it will somehow need to incorporate the word “survivor” and the pink ribbon logo. The other awesome thing is that I get pink boobie cupcakes each year for my birthday..... as I said I’m very lucky!

Written by Isabella in 2014