Mum's toughest choice: terminate pregnancy or risk her life
LAUREN Cochrane waited years for this news: she was pregnant. And then came some she never wanted to hear: she had breast cancer - again. Despite two long years trying for a baby, doctors told Lauren to terminate her pregnancy at 11 weeks in the interests of her own health.
She defiantly chose to continue the pregnancy.
"I was advised termination would give me the best treatment options," the 36-year-old told Weekend.
"I didn't want to do that. We tried for a long time - a couple of years - so I struggled a lot with that idea. I went and got a second opinion. He (the second doctor) said 'ideally, terminating the pregnancy is your best option, but there are other options...' "That 'but' was all I needed to hear."
Lauren's "other option" was a mastectomy. At 15 weeks pregnant, she underwent surgery to have her left breast removed. She was also advised to undergo chemotherapy while pregnant.
"I couldn't bring myself to do chemo," she said. "I had to do whatever I had to do for the both of us. It wasn't just about me anymore.
"It put me at risk, it limited what I could do, but I held off on the chemotherapy."
Lauren was first diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ at 29 years old, just two months before her wedding in April 2011 to husband, Michael.
At a routine pap smear and check-up, her family doctor discovered a 3cm lump in her left breast.
Her mother had battled breast cancer at age 39 and had been clear for 19 years, but tests proved Lauren's cancer was not genetic.
"Eight weeks out from my wedding I had a lumpectomy, the lump removed, and I didn't have any further treatment. I chose to pursue natural therapies from that point," she said.
"I went back to the surgeon for an 18-month check-up in 2012 and where I had the initial biopsy was raised scarring. I constantly asked about it and was told it was just scarring. It started to change. I had another biopsy and a week later the results came in and the cancer was confirmed. It had come back.
Lauren described her pregnancy as scary due to "the big unknown".
"The cancer was hormone positive or hormone receptive - and my hormones were crazy being pregnant," she said.
"I had the mastectomy and the margins from the surgery were clear. It hadn't spread into the lymph nodes and the doctors were fairly confident they had removed all of the cancer in the surgery, which was promising.
"But there was a risk it could metastasise throughout my body because the cancer was hormone positive."
Lauren otherwise had a healthy pregnancy and her daughter Violet, now four, was born in February 2013.
"The birth of my daughter helped me tremendously because there were so many reasons to be strong and fight.
"I went into it (motherhood) without expectations. I could only do what I could. I didn't want to set myself up for disappointment. I was able to breastfeed on my remaining breast for six months."
Two weeks after Violet was born, Lauren began radiation as a precaution as advised by her oncologist. "It was tiring going back and forth every day for six weeks, especially with a newborn," she said.
But it was only the start of a five-year journey. In September 2013, Lauren began hormone therapy.
"I didn't want to (have hormone therapy). I wanted to have more kids. I have one year left of the five-year treatment," she said.
Then two years later, in 2015, Lauren underwent a second mastectomy, of her right breast, and a breast reconstruction.
"You're a higher risk in those first two years of a recurrence. I found it a lot more liberating when I had the second boob removed."
In September 2018, she will finish the hormone therapy.
"I see the oncologist every few months because I am still undergoing treatment. I'm confident everything will be good. I would like to have more children, but if I can't I'm blessed that I have my daughter as some people don't have that opportunity," Lauren said.
The south-east Queensland mother joined the National Breast Cancer Foundation's Speakers' Bureau to help raise awareness and encourage community support of continued breast cancer research through fundraising.
"I chose to speak up because breast cancer does happen to younger women. Everyone can make a difference by holding a Pink Ribbon Breakfast on October. Such a simple gesture can make a big difference to many lives."