When Virginia Davies was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2019 her first thought was not of herself but her nine-year-old son, Brent.
Virginia had an appointment with the Breast Screen bus in Mount Isa but like most women she balked at going due to being too busy with work and family commitments.
The single mum figured it wouldn’t be a big issue if she didn’t attend; every two years since she turned forty, she routinely had a mammogram.
However, Virginia did go and was glad she ‘listened to the little voice in her head’ because on this occasion, they found a lump.
“It was in my left breast and after being referred for a biopsy I found myself sitting in the Doctor’s office.”
“He told me ‘You have breast cancer, but it’s one of the good cancers.”
“I thought to myself since when is there a ‘good’ cancer. I was in shock, an overwhelming experience of ‘what the hell do I do now’. I thought of my son, my thoughts were racing. But then I recalled that deep down I felt I knew it was cancer, so I guess I was somewhat prepared.”
"For me there was no lump that could be felt through my own examinations. It was only that I went to my mammogram appointment that it was found.
“It also occurred to me that I really didn’t know much about breast cancer at all,” she said.
It was around this time that Virginia met Gayle Steed from the Mount Isa & North West Qld Breast Cancer Support Group and she gave her a care package.
Within the package was a pink book.
“That book is like the Bible to me. I didn’t Google to learn about breast cancer. This book told me everything about the different stages of the disease, everything you need to know about the many treatments, and anything else I needed to know.”
“If it wasn’t for Gayle and the other woman from the Support Group, it would have been a harder road to travel.”
Virginia’s Stage 1, 16 mm malignant lump required immediate treatment, surgery and radiation therapy, so she gathered herself and her son, Brent and flew to Townsville.
Her first priority above the stress of surgery and the exhaustion from radiation therapy was her ‘little man’.
“Being a single mum, I had the added worry of keeping a roof over our heads, paying the bills and ensuring my son’s day-to-day life wasn’t impacted too much. I was determined not to let cancer take over my life.”
“Brent stayed in Mount Isa for my surgery but came to Townsville for the month of radiation treatment and we stayed at the Cancer Lodge.”
“My little man has been great going through this, a real trouper. He’s so supportive, and I am very thankful for him.”
For twelve weeks after the treatment Virginia felt exhausted, sore and burnt.
“Even though the radiation targets the cancer inside your body, it can leave a sunburn or blister effect on your outer skin.”
"There were a lot of tears at 2am in the morning when I knew my son wouldn't be able to witness my turmoil and there were times during the day when I'd have to find a quiet place outside to shed a few tears," she said.
On Tuesday 19 November 2019, Virginia’s doctor gave her the all clear.
The malignant cells had not penetrated any nearby lymph nodes and her test results came back within normal parameters.
Many survivors need time to reflect once their treatment has run its course and Virginia was no different.
“I felt amazing, it was the best feeling. I remember saying ‘I got this!’ I rang everyone and told them I had just received the all clear. It was a very emotional time.”
It’s been seven months since Virginia’s original mammogram which found the lump, she is due for a follow-up in July, yet recent scans and tests show no evidence of disease returning.
“Anyone who has had cancer is in constant surveillance mode.”
“Now I focus on each day, yes, I expect good and bad days but the best advice I can give to another women going through their journey with cancer is – just take one day at a time and don’t sweat the small stuff.”
"I have a renewed positive attitude and with my son by my side I know we will give the C-word a good fight if it returns," she said.
*More than 15 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in the Mount Isa region last year.