25-year- old Courtney Hunt was recently diagnosed with stage three Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, a type of breast cancer which started off with a painful lump in her breast and went down to an infection in the milk duct.
“I found a painful lump in my breast which I thought was concerning, doctors however, were sure it was an infection in the milk ducts. I was treated with antibiotics, however, the lump showed no change. We did further ultrasounds and a biopsy which led to my diagnosis,” said Hunt.
The young survivor said she definitely has days of shock and disappointment, but in that moment of being told, she felt a sense of relief. “I felt relief that all these feelings of something being wrong were being affirmed. I tried not to be engulfed in all the millions of questions but rather to focus on what needed to be done in order to survive.”
Hunt said in her family, there is no history of cancer. “We have no breast cancer in our family and I have tested negative for the BRCA gene, which is the gene often responsible for breast cancer, so no one can say how or why I developed this mutation,” she added.
The brave cancer patient said the disease comes with such a wide variety of challenges.
” Physically my challenges have been pretty standardised; nausea, headaches, fatigue, hair loss, you name it. Yet it is the challenges that are less frequently discussed that have been most trying for me. Trying to discern a life that is independent of my diagnosis is difficult, which in turn makes it difficult to feel as if you are more than this disease. My mental health has been my top priority to ensure on my bad days I am strong and on my good days I am grateful.”
Hunt is part of a support group, ‘Reach for Recovery’, led by Sandy Colia and ‘Look Good Feel Better’ . ” I am often in contact with Sandy who is amazing with offering different support systems throughout this journey. Look Good, Feel Better offered me a space to learn different ways to feel as normal as possible on a day-to-day basis,” she added.
She said attending events and awareness programmes that host women who have
been through or are going through similar things and can communicate and relate to one another, is also empowering for her. “I have been so blessed with amazing support, which has been pivotal in my journey. My faith, family and friends have carried me through this. I have found the most bewildering new perspective on life and for that I am so grateful. Outside of my family, the community truly does offer so much love, grace and encouragement, standing beside me, fighting this battle alongside me.”
Hunt says her mother is the one who took it the hardest. “My mother just wanted to take it away and she wished it were her and not me. She has been there every step of the way and is my best friend and biggest supporter. She comes to every single appointment and is just amazing. She has hard days too, but as a family we try to be strong, when another member isn’t feeling so strong, we all carry each other through.
“My journey is still far from over, but I am happy to say that I have my last chemo session on 16 October, which is such a great feat. I did IVF treatment followed by harvesting and freezing my eggs, should chemo make me infertile, as well as lymph node dissection surgery. I have done four rounds of AC, better known as the ‘Red Devil’ and 11 rounds of Taxol with a double mastectomy and radiation still on the horizon,” said Hunt.
She said her short term goals differ from day to day. “Ultimately for the moment, my goals are to get through each day with as much gratitude and strength as possible. My long term goals are definitely to survive, and to thrive. I want to get to the end of this, get back to work, take full advantage of having the energy to live life to the fullest, travel, and I think just delve into fulfilling my dreams.”
As many others tend to think, cancer is not cureable, Hunt is amongst those who believe it can be cured.
She said, “Yes, I definitely believe cancer can be cured, and for us that are lucky enough to see remission, it is so critical to use this platform to bring about more awareness.”
On Friday, 4 October, Hunt attended a Pink Drive High-Tea and said the message she received from the talks on the day was, “Whatever you manage today is enough, however you feel today is okay and in spite of how you think you look today, you are beautiful and strong,”
Hunt advised women of all ages to get checked up and she said, “I think everyone would prefer to live in naivety, to think this will never happen to them. The earlier it is diagnosed, the greater the chances of survival are – so do your self-exams, go to your annual mammograms, it really can save your life, it certainly saved mine.”
She said since her diagnosis, she had to make some lifestyle changes which included, resigning from her job. “I resigned from my job to focus on treatment. Some days I only manage to stay awake a few hours and I certainly have days when physically and emotionally, it all just feels too much. Some days I find it very frustrating that I can’t manage the things I used to, but I try to view this time as a season for spiritual growth and discovery and not just physical healing,” concluded Hunt