Chester kisses his mum Tarah Hastie's head during her treatment for breast cancer in 2012.

Truth about breast cancer laid bare

TARAH Hastie was standing in her shower cubicle as her husband started cutting off her hair. It fell around her feet. He took out the razor to finish the job of shaving her head.

"Even though I knew it was going to grow back, for me, it was a really pivotal moment," she said.

"I washed all the little bits of hair off myself when he was finished, I had a shower and was drying myself. I dropped the towel and there I was in the mirror with this big mastectomy scar on my chest and for the first time I actually looked sick. I couldn't hide it anymore. For the first time I felt sick."

In February 2012 Tarah found a lump in her breast as she was breastfeeding her son. Then 27 years old, she went for a series of tests following an initial check-up and, three weeks later, was sitting in the doctor's office being told she had breast cancer.

"It totally blindsided me because it wasn't even on my radar. I didn't even know women in their 20s could get breast cancer, let alone women who were fit and healthy," she said.

About three days later she sat in her specialist's office and saw the 6cm tumor in her breast for the first time.

"It wasn't until seeing the breast surgeon and being scheduled for a mastectomy three days later that I realised life was going to be substantially different from the diagnosis," Tarah said.


Tarah Hastie, her husband Adam and son Chester.
Tarah Hastie, her husband Adam and son Chester.

In that moment, as Tarah digested what the diagnosis meant, her thoughts turned to the possibility she would not see her son grow up. Chester was only 18 months old at the time.

"In that split second you think about what you're going to do to support your husband and I thought, well, if I'm not going to be here to watch my son graduate high school and get married and have his own children I thought about writing notes or writing letters. Something that can be delivered to him at these huge milestones in his life," she said.

Then her thoughts turned to how she was going to fight the cancer and the treatment she would have to undergo.

Following the surgery, aggressive rounds of chemotherapy meant Tarah started to lose her hair. Radiation followed, plus drug treatments and the decision to have her other breast removed.

She credited her husband, Adam, and the unconditional love from her son, now aged six, as constant comfort throughout her treatment.

Tarah, now 32, is approaching the five-year mark of being cancer-free.

"It's so important to self-check," she said. "Soap your hands up and do it in the shower. It's not just down to your breasts, it's your whole body. Be aware of changes. If it's something hormonal they come and go, but if something sticks around go and get it checked out," she said.

"If my story can help one woman have an early detection, I'll keep telling my story in the hope one woman won't have to go through what I went through."


Tarah Hastie battled cancer in 2012.
Tarah Hastie battled cancer in 2012. Contributed