About Sharyn

Sharyn Smith

I was diagnosed with Grade 3 Triple Negative Breast Cancer in December 2019.

I had just returned from a 4 week trip to Europe and was feeling the best I had felt in years.

I had nursed my mother in my home for the last 5 months of her life the year before and had suffered extreme trauma with toxic family members. The stress after her death was awful and being executor of her will, I had to relegate it to a solicitor and have a restraining order taken out on family members. I truly believe that this was the time I developed cancer.

I am a Nurse of 44 years and now work as a Personal Trainer/ Nutritionist with my husband and my 2 businesses.  I have 2 children and 2 granddaughters (4 and 7 years old). My son has lived in the USA for the past 6 years and my daughter is nearby.

My world fell apart after my diagnosis. Being told you have cancer at the age of 62 was life changing.

That first week was such a blur with GP appointment, Breast Surgeon appointment, biopsy, Oncologist appointment, full body CT and bone scan and starting chemotherapy all in the space of 7 days. Phew!!!

The plan was to have 6 months of 16 cycles of chemo (4 AC & 12 Taxol), lumpectomy with node removal and then radiation.  I am extremely sensitive to medication and suffered terribly after the first chemo cycle so much so that the 2nd dose was reduced by 20%, the 3rd dose was reduced a further 10% as I was bedridden for 12 days post chemo. Prior to being given the 4th and final AC, it was decided by my Oncologist to go straight to the weekly Taxol as the side effects were too demanding on my body. I had the 1st Taxol and a week later I developed severe chest pain and went to ED. It was discovered that I had a mild heart attack.

One thing I am forever grateful for was that my 3cm tumour had decreased in size after the 1st cycle of AC and after the 2nd cycle, the tumour could no longer be felt.

My Oncologist and now Cardiologist agreed that I could not have any more chemo and my appointment with the Breast Surgeon was brought forward by 3 months.  I had a left lumpectomy and 4 nodes removed in March 2020, just as Coronavirus was rearing its ugly head.

My results were extremely favourable and showed that I had a PCR (Pathological Complete Response) to the very small amount of chemo that I received. The 4 nodes were cancer free and my husband and I were elated at this news.

I had a few weeks of recovery and then began 15 cycles of radiotherapy. This was such a breeze compared to the chemo and I proudly counted down the days. I had to attend my appointments alone thanks to Covid 19, but I was happy to be able to see some light at what had been a very long and dark tunnel.

As a nurse I thought I knew so much about cancer and its treatment, but it became very apparent that I knew absolutely nothing and wondered how I could have been so naïve. I have since realised that unless you experience this disease and its treatments, you can never understand it.

I liken it to telling someone about childbirth, but until you experience it, you can never understand what it is really like.

Well, I am nearly 5 months after finishing treatment and have been through the gamut of emotions that goes with this diagnosis.  Fortunately, I had been working with a great Psychologist since the death of my mum.

It reminds me of the 5 stages of grief and I go through different stages at different times, and then work things out by being aware of what is happening in the here and now and finding things to be grateful for every day. Understanding grief has been a life saver for me and my emotions.  The fear of recurrence is real and often very debilitating, but I feel and hope that with time, that will decrease.

I found out about Think Pink whilst reading a book written by Lindsey Kennedy and had a look at the website and was so impressed by what I found. Finally some much needed support. Hooray!

I felt very neglected when I was diagnosed as I wasn’t given any information regarding Breast Care Nurse or support groups and had to source everything myself.  A Cancer diagnosis is hard enough, but I feel having a support system in place is invaluable and I’m so pleased I have found Think Pink. I participated in my 1st Zoom meeting yesterday in the Fabulous over 50’s support group.

Speaking to other cancer patients is so uplifting as you know they understand exactly what you are talking about. Hearing other stories can be heartbreaking and strengthening.

I am having some ongoing issues related to treatment, but I am learning what is my “new normal” and what I can live with once I understand it. Things such as a seroma in my suture line, Radiation fibrosis of the chest wall, Lymphoedema and chronic lethargy. All minor things comparatively.

I know things are particularly hard during the Coronavirus and with the lockdown, but I have been so grateful for this time to heal and recover. My daily walk to my beautiful local beach with my husband of 41 years and my little dog has been my salvation.  I am like the “ever ready bunny” and go nonstop all the time, but I am slowly (very slowly!) learning to listen to my body more. I think I must be a very slow learner!  I still walk every day and pound up and down the hills and lift weights 3 days a week and adore feeding my body only the most nutritious plant based foods with the occasional bit of meat and fish and love feeling semi normal. Whatever that is!

I look forward to working more with Think Pink and hopefully helping others going through this journey.

It’s my 63rd birthday on Sunday 30th August and I had planned my “Circle of love lunch” to celebrate the 7 women who got me through the past 8 months. I wanted to show them how much it meant to have them in my life, but due to being in isolation, I have had to postpone it for another day in the near future. The love and support of my husband has been amazing, and I will be forever grateful to him.

I must add here that once treatment is over, people do expect you to go back to your old way of life and don’t understand about how you are feeling. Life will never be the same again and every day you manage the side effects and the fear. Some days are harder than others, but I do find Joy in every day.

The support drops off, the phone calls decrease and when you express your fears, people do dismiss them. This is very hard to deal with as you are a completely different person after this experience.

My advice for anyone newly diagnosed would be to take a deep breath, have some support person with you at each appointment, take notes, ask questions and seek any help and support that you might need. I’m not very gracious at accepting help, but was so overwhelmed with offers to help it changed my outlook. I think I might be slightly less of a “control freak” than I previously had been, although my family and friends may disagree.

Think Pink Foundation