Elise Sproll had just completed a work presentation in New Zealand and was flying home to Sydney for an early 33rd birthday celebration when she discovered something that turned her life upside down.
The then 32-year-old decided to examine her breasts before jumping into bed after chatting with a friend over dinner – and that’s when she noticed a “bean-like” lump in her right breast.
“My friend told me how she had a lump checked and when I went to bed I decided to check mine, which I do regularly,” Elise told news.com.au.
But to her shock, she felt something she had never felt before.
“I felt sick right away,” Elise said.
“I was a bit incredulous, but then I felt it again and again and then immediately booked an appointment with my family doctor.”
Elise spotted the lump near her right armpit, along her bra.
“I didn’t have lumpy boobs and I never felt like that [this] lump before. It wasn’t massive, it felt more like a bean,” she said.
The 35-year-old said she will never forget the “shock, disbelief and utter whirlwind” that followed during her 15 months of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation after being diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer.
“It was absolute hell,” she said.
Elise said that she often woke up at night thinking she was having a bad dream.
“But then I would feel my chest and realize it’s not a dream.”
She said the day after discovering the knot was tough because friends and family called to wish her a happy birthday and she had to “pretend to be okay”.
“I told my family I was a little concerned because I found a lump, but they told me not to worry.”
However, when Elise visited her GP the next day, she was sent to the Sydney Breast Clinic to undergo multiple tests – and it was discovered that she was suffering from the rare and aggressive type of breast cancer.
Triple-negative breast cancer has limited treatment options, and according to Breastcancer.org, it does not respond to hormone therapy drugs or drugs that target HER2 protein receptors.
Sproll underwent multiple rounds of treatment for cancer. (Photo / Included)
About 10 to 20 percent of breast cancers are triple negative breast cancer.
“I remember doctors telling me all day it felt like a fibroid. But at the end of the day when I saw the doctor again, she said, ‘I wasn’t expecting to tell you this, but it looks like cancer,'” Elise said.
“That Monday when I had an appointment with the surgeon, her first words were to let you know you have cancer,” and I cut her off and said, “Got it?”
“I thought it was a maybe because that’s all my brain could understand when the doctor originally told me.
“And then the hurricane started.”
An otherwise fit, active, and healthy Elise had five months of chemotherapy, then surgery to remove the tumor.
“Unfortunately, the chemotherapy didn’t kill the tumor, but it did help shrink it. I then had 28 rounds of radiotherapy and because it didn’t kill it, I had to go through another six months of chemotherapy, more as a preventive measure.”
Elise, who has shown no signs of illness since February 2020, said although these 15 months have been among the hardest of her life, she has tried to take as much control and keep a positive attitude.
“When I was flying home from New Zealand I decided to write a journal entry and I actually started it off with, ‘I’m the luckiest girl in the world. I love my job, love running marathons, I have amazing friends and family.’
She was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. (Photo / Included)
“So I went into it stable, positive and fit – I remember thinking there’s so much I can’t control and instead I’m going to focus on the things I can like, mine.” diet, exercise and attitude.
“And I honestly look back and I don’t know how I trained and worked.”
Elise said some of the most challenging moments during her 15 months of chemo and radiation felt like a shell of her former self.
“I felt like I didn’t have my intelligence and personality. Chemo erases your ability to sleep, think and articulate, and with the job I have [as a marketer] It’s tough.”
Elise said her treatment has taught her many tips and tricks that have helped her manage her side effects and she hopes to share these with other women during the most difficult time of her life.
The 35-year-old has put together a kit of ideas for newly diagnosed women to manage the side effects of chemotherapy and boost their well-being afterwards.
Now Sproll wants to help support other women going through a cancer diagnosis. (Photo / Included)
“My dream is to give these packs to every young woman who needs chemotherapy — for free,” she said at a GoFundMe facility to help fund the kits.
Elise said each kit costs about $120 to make and she has already donated seven packs to young women at Kinghorn Cancer Center from her own savings.
“I’m hoping for donations to help me make many more,” she said.
In one day alone, Elise managed to raise $6,500 off her $30,000 goal.
“I want to empower as many women as possible with the best opportunity to take responsibility for their health and the side effects of chemotherapy, regardless of their situation.”
Each set contains a Bravery Co headscarf (hair loss can occur within two weeks), Moo Goo moisturizer, toothpaste, sunscreen, lip balm, deodorant (chemical-free for sensitive chemo skin), Biotene mouthwash (for mouth sores and to treat taste changes) and castor oil, which aids in hair loss.
You can donate to Elise’s cause here.
– From news.com.au