File size must be less than 2Mb
You must have online publishing permission or full ownership of this image
File types (jpg, png, gif)
05 May 2021
By SARAH MATTHEWS
As a former aerobics champion, long-time personal trainer, mother, wife and volunteer, Amanda Wik was used to being in control.
She juggled her responsibilities, managed her commitments with precision and of course, was fighting fit.
Then she found a lump the size of a pea in her right breast and suddenly, she was not in control of anything.
Article continues below
While trying to secure a doctor’s appointment, and soon after, a mammogram, Amanda kept telling herself everything would be fine.
“I was terrified, but I kept telling myself it would be fine and it was just a lump,” she said.
Amanda was diagnosed with two types of breast cancer on November 9, 2018.
The cancer was stage one, grade three and grew in a week between two sets of biopsies.
The cancer was aggressive and so was Amanda’s treatment regime.
“I had a lot of tests, some of them not so nice – I found biopsies quite terrifying,” she said.
“Some of the tests are mind-blowing and you still don’t know what’s going on.
“I had to go into a zone to get through it. But after the diagnosis, that’s when the whirlwind really started.”
On November 30, Amanda had surgery to remove the cancer and reconstruct her breast.
“I went to plastic surgeon Derek Neoh and breast surgeon Elaine Bevington, in Melbourne,” she said.
“I had decided to reconstruct, so I was cut more than 180 degrees around my tummy and tissue was taken out to reconstruct my breast.
“It was scary and it hurt like hell.
“But I only have a small cut in the side of my breast and everyone says you can’t even tell I’ve had surgery. They did an amazing job.”
Then came the treatment.
“I had a port put in, which was another horrendous experience, because everything is out of your comfort zone and out of your control,” she said.
“I liked to maintain control of my life and I had to let everything go.
“I had to let the people around me and my specialists care for me and do what I needed to do to get through it.”
On January 9, Amanda started the first of three courses of chemotherapy, every three weeks for three months.
“I had to be hospitalised because I was so sick, 24-7,” she said.
“By the end, they had to knock me out with drugs.”
After that, she started a weekly stint of chemotherapy for 12 weeks.
“The first one was a nasty one. The 12-week one, they say a lot of people don’t get through it, but I managed to get through it with minimal side effects,” Amanda said.
“I also started Herceptin, which is a 12-month treatment every three weeks. They were all at Epworth in Geelong.”
Amanda said she chose to have her treatment in Geelong to be close to her daughters, Rebecca, 25, and Meghan, 21.
“The cancer centre here wasn’t up and running and my girls had a rental house there and could take me to treatments and look after me while Stephen was back in Horsham working,” she said.
“After treatment we would go to the beach. I was all covered up in towels and umbrellas because I had to avoid the sun, but I could just watch my family swim, or just sit there and take in the ocean breeze. It was lovely.”
Amanda said despite her positive outcome, the treatment phase was ‘also horrendous’.
“It’s hard for me to believe I’ve actually done it and been through it,” she said.
“I am a totally different person now. I see things differently. My body is not my body and I have had to learn how to be a different version of me.”
Cancer also takes a toll on mental health and Amanda still sees a psychologist.
“I’m not afraid to admit that, because it really plays on your mind,” she said.
“Some days I have good days and then other days, I get caught up wondering if it’s going to come back – or when it’s going to come back, because they’re the ones you hear stories about.”
Amanda’s oncologist has declared her ‘cancer free’.
“He doesn’t call it remission, he says, ‘until we know otherwise, you’re cancer free’,” she said.
“Remission makes it sound like it’s coming back. You’re just in a holding pattern.”
Throughout the process, Amanda chose to have genetic testing.
“I was thinking about my girls and what the future for them is,” she said.
“But the results came back to say I was a really, really low risk. The girls just might have to start some mammograms earlier.”
Amanda said one of the main drivers behind sharing her story was raising awareness of the importance of self-checking.
She said it was also vital for women to know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.
“Before all this, I thought the only sign of breast cancer was a lump in the breast,” she said.
“But I had other signs and symptoms, such as discharge from the nipple and an itchy nipple, but I didn’t know they were signs.
“There are probably eight or 10 symptoms, which a lot of people wouldn’t even realise, because we just think it’s a lump.”
Amanda said she put her symptoms down to hormones until a chance encounter with a potential client.
“My grandmother passed away and I felt like she was my guiding angel, who sent someone to me to make me realise I needed to do something for myself,” Amanda said.
“A potential client came to me, who had breast cancer. She told me her story, which was really quite heavy on my shoulders.
“It made me think, I need to be more vigilant for myself.”
Amanda met the client on a Thursday. Two days later, while she was preparing to go to a schoolaerobics competition, she thought she would just ‘have a check’.
“There was a lump,” she said.
“I feel like my grandmother sent this lady to me. The lady had told me she wasn’t going to come, she was too nervous to exercise again, but something just brought her to me.
“That’s how the journey started.”
Amanda said she had talked to her daughters about self-breast checks and had encouraged other women to talk about it among themselves.
“For older women, breast cancer can occur between mammograms – it’s something women should be doing on the first day of every month,” she said.
“Early detection makes all the difference. Everyone has said because I got it so early, it’s a good outcome.
“Having the fitness behind me and being as healthy as I was really helped me get through. I’m nowhere near any sort of fitness at the moment – I’m nowhere near where I was.
“I’m also on a tablet a day for another three years, which isn’t very nice on your body.
“But I’m just chipping away at it and trying to be kind to myself. It’s hard to be what I was to what I am now – it’s definitely a battle.
“But I’m so grateful to everyone who has helped me – my husband, daughters, family, friends and medical staff.”
Amanda has returned to work as a personal trainer, part time.
She also hopes to resume coaching schoolaerobics teams at Horsham Holy Trinity Lutheran College, which she has done for the past 10 years.
“When I was sick, I had to drop everything – that was really hard for me,” she said.
“Coaching and the gym, that was my life. Telling those girls was so tough.”
Amanda did, however, manage to coach student Jaya Meadows to a national schoolareobics title.
“We did it through Facetime from Geelong and that little girl worked extremely hard,” she said.
“She was the glue that held me together at times, because she gave me something else to think about. She was a little gem and it was wonderful for me to be able to do that.”
In the lead-up to Mother’s Day on Sunday, Amanda is counting her blessings.
“I could not have got through this without my daughters and my husband, Stephen,” she said.
“For something that was so devastating and scary and out of control, I feel I’ve been very lucky and blessed the way that it’s all gone.
“I’ve met some amazing people and I am so lucky to have such wonderful support from my family, friends and the community.
“I feel very well looked after, very well cared for and loved.”
Amanda said cancer had changed her perspective on life.
“I try to be a glass half full-person now rather than half empty, I like to see the positives and enjoy things,” she said.
“You just don’t know how quickly things can be taken away from you.”
The entire May 5, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!