Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in Australia and the second most common cancer-causing death in women. In Australia, 800 young women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and the disease claims the lives of more than 3000.
Rachel Vercoe, 26, was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2019. She has finished her intensive chemotherapy and has undergone a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. Throughout her treatment, she has been a strong supporter of the National Breast Cancer Foundation, helping the organisation to raise awareness about the disease and championing for vital research.
“I was sitting and work and had my hand on my chest, I don’t even know why, and I felt a lump”, Rachel tells marie claire. “It was up quite high, but I knew it wasn’t supposed to be there.”
The year prior, Rachel had found a lump of her right breast and went to the doctor straight away. After having an ultrasound organised, the lump had disappeared. “The doctors now believe it was just a cyst – it wasn’t breast cancer.”
Rachel's story is not uncommon. Prior to their period, many women notice large, benign lumps in their breasts that go away following a few days.
“Around December, I felt the same spot and realised there was a lump there again. This time, because the doctor said lumps can come and go with your period, I waited about a month before going back to the doctor. I was scared because I was hoping like last time, it would disappear, but it hadn’t.
“My family weren’t too concerned as none of us really believed it could be breast cancer so I took my time waiting for it to disappear before heading to the doctors that second time.
“Eventually, I went back to the doctors who booked me in for an ultrasound. It was obvious there was something there and a biopsy was taken straight away. A couple of days later I received a call back from the doctor asking if I could come and see her again that day. I knew then something was wrong.
“I was told the lump was suspicious of breast cancer and had to get another type of biopsy taken. I was sitting at work writing up a story when I got a call from an unknown number. It was the doctor. There at work, over the phone, he told me I had breast cancer.”
It was from there, that everything would go full speed ahead. Doctor’s appointments and treatment plans would be thrown at Rachel, that there wasn't much time to think about the reality of her situation.
"It was pretty much chaos from then," she says. "You're really just thrust into it."
There is one positive to come out of Rachel's diagnosis. She has found an online community through her Instagram page, that not only learns from her but gives her strength and support.
Of the page, Rachel says: "I'm trying to be open about it all."
Open, she is. Rachel shares the good, the bad and the ugly through her page - which only helps to help better a wider understanding of breast cancer and what it's really like to be diagnosed.
"I wanted to let everyone know what was going on with me," she says. "I don't know, there is kind of a 'thing' around cancer - everyone's afraid. I was too, I couldn't even say the word before. Now that it's part of my life, I thought it would be good to let people get a behind closed door look and see what's going on."
Posting that initial announcement was no easy feat, emotionally and physically. But the overwhelming response has made it all worth it.
"So many people are reaching out. It's crazy. I've never had that many people reaching out to me. So it's been unreal."
The impact these people have on Rachel's life is evident.
"It's really, really amazing. There's a lot of good people out there. And it makes you feel good when you post, that you're giving that platform to others to then come out and be more open about it."
"If I could help others through this journey, then it's worth it."
Follow Rachel here.
This article originally appeared on Marie Claire.