She was 26 years old when the diagnosis came. It was February 11, 2013, and the words ‘triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma’ meant life was about to dramatically change for Eva Wong.
Invasive ductal carcinoma is the most common form of breast cancer, and at grade three, the tumour was already fast-growing.
It was the beginning of an arduous battle. It was the kind of battle Eva never expected to face.
With no family history in breast cancer, it was a shock to return from a camping trip and discover through self-examination the dull ache she had been experiencing was due to a three centimetre lump in her breast.
She booked an appointment with her doctor who initially thought it may have been an infection, because tumours are not often associated with pain, but after the tumour was picked up through an ultrasound, Eva was immediately referred to a breast surgeon.
Two weeks later, she underwent a full mastectomy and TRAM (transverse rectus abdominis) flap reconstruction, which takes a portion of the underlying abdominal muscle to reconstruct the breast with the patient’s own tissue.
Six rounds of chemotherapy and five weeks of radiation followed during a tumultuous time in Eva’s life that she says felt like being stuck on a moving train with no way to escape.
“When it’s all happening, you really don’t get a chance to breathe,” she said.
“It’s like being on a train with lots of stops and you can’t get off. You’ve just got to keep going and going through the motions until it’s over [but] I had faith in the surgeon, and my faith in God cemented everything. I trusted that it was all going to be okay.”
Four years on, the Pakuranga resident is cancer-free, a devoted wife to husband Joshua and proud mother of 15-month-old son Joseph.
When a patient goes through chemotherapy, a couple is usually offered a free round of IVF treatment due to difficulties conceiving, but Eva and Joshua decided to try for a baby naturally.
It wasn’t long after they got married in April 2015 the couple fell pregnant with a healthy baby boy.
“Being able to have Joe first time round was a miracle,” she said, her statement filled with gratitude.
She’s thankful for the support she had around her during her struggle with cancer – including her parents who flew up from Christchurch to be there during and after her surgery – and wants to see more awareness of the issue for young women.
“It can happen to anyone. It’s making sure you get to know your breasts and what’s normal for you, and when something isn’t normal, go and see somebody straight away.
“You don’t even think to do self-examination at that age… but it’s highly treatable when it’s caught early.”
That’s Eva’s motivation for hosting her first ever Pink Ribbon Breakfast this Saturday, May 6, so that more women like her can be helped in the future.
She’ll be making her favourite paleo treats for guests, and is hopeful she can raise $1000 toward the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation (NZBCF) after beating her original target of $500 earlier this week.
Money raised from her breakfast will be used to fund vital research projects and medical grants to help improve the survivorship of breast cancer in New Zealand, where on average seven women a day are diagnosed with the illness.
To support Eva’s Pink Breakfast fundraiser, visit https://pinkribbonbreakfast.co.nz/page/evawongshostpage.
- Breast cancer affects one in nine New Zealand women over their lifetime. With your help, the NZBCF can fund potentially life-saving research which could one day help your mum, your sister, your friend, your daughter. Sign up to host a Pink Ribbon Breakfast this May at https://pinkribbonbreakfast.co.nz/