A fit and healthy young mother with a lump in her breast was told by a doctor who dismissed her concerns she was ‘too young to have cancer’.
Danna Diaz, now 38, was breastfeeding her second child in February 2020 when she noticed a small lump in her left breast.
The communications specialist, from NSW, was initially told it was breast lumps, a common breastfeeding symptom, and so she put other niggling symptoms she was also experiencing to the back of her mind.
But in June 2021 her husband Jon noticed the same lump, which was now bigger than before.
The mother-of-two, who would practice yoga daily and go to the gym five times a week, went to a GP the next day where she was referred for an ultrasound and a biopsy.
Danna Diaz (pictured with family), now 38, was breastfeeding her second child in February 2020 when she noticed a small lump in her left breast
Ms Diaz was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer and is now writing a children’s book to help de-mystify the illness
‘Although the lump was clearly visible on the ultrasound, a specialist refused to give me a biopsy saying my ‘risk was low’, and that I was ‘too young to have breast cancer’,’ Ms Diaz told 7Life.
Feeling anxious, she sought the advice of a friend who survived breast cancer in her late twenties who recommended she visit the Sydney Breast Clinic where she had a mammogram, ultrasound and a biopsy.
She was soon diagnosed with stage three breast cancer.
‘I felt paralysed and in a state of shock,’ Ms Diaz told the publication.
‘What followed was a feeling of despair – I felt dizzy, like my world was falling apart and I no longer had control of my life.
‘My mind went straight to the worst-case scenario. I kept thinking about my kids and how young they were and how heartbroken they would be if I died.
‘I have always been into health and wellness and considered myself fit and healthy before cancer.’
Ms Diaz pictured with her husband Jon and their two kids – son Sonny and daughter Frida
‘I had a pretty strong immune system and was never sick. Pre-kids, I went to the gym at least five times a week, ran between six to 10km every second day and did yoga almost daily.’
Looking back, there were warning signs she failed to recognise.
‘I remembered my sore left arm had been tingling for weeks, my inverted left nipple and the discharge I had been experiencing for months – which I had blamed as residue breast milk from over two years of breastfeeding,’ Ms Diaz said.
‘The new symptoms I had been experiencing were red flags for me and just a gut feeling that something was definitely wrong.’
Her diagnosis came on the same day Sydney was plunged into its second pandemic lockdown.
There were, however, some positives amidst all the fear and worry: hers was the most common breast cancer meaning there were many treatment options available.
Ms Diaz underwent 16 rounds of chemotherapy and multiple surgeries to remove the a ‘massive’ 8cm tumour from her breast.
‘The biggest challenge was facing my mortality and dealing with the fear and anxiety around my future and the future of my kids,’ she said.
‘I was struggling with my mental health, side effects of treatment and being put into medically induced menopause at 36.
‘I have very low white blood cells due to my medication and suffer from neutropenia and I also have the classic menopause symptoms — the hot flashes, fatigue, insomnia, migraines among other symptoms are intense.’
She was finally given the all-clear in May this year but is on three different kinds of medications to prevent a recurrence.
‘Even though the side effects of the medications are a daily struggle, I do feel good. I exercise daily and prioritise wholefoods and a plant-based diet,’ she said.
Telling her children about her devastating illness and having them watch her lose her hair inspired Ms Diaz to write a children’s book called I Love Someone With Cancer.
‘I wrote the book to help make is easier for parents or carers to talk to the young people in their lives about a cancer diagnosis — whether they’ve just been diagnosed themselves or a family member or loved one has been diagnosed,’ Ms Diaz said.
She added: ‘I hope the book can help parents or carers explain cancer and what it means for them or others – like hair loss, fatigue, fear and depression while also reinforcing that all feelings are normal and it’s okay to feel and express different emotions such as fear, anger or worry during the cancer journey.’
‘I Love Someone With Cancer’ is on pre-sale with an official release date in November.