For Lizl Matthewson, a mom from Nelson, New Zealand, breastfeeding her babies was a sacred part of her day. The unmatched closeness she achieved while nursing became a bonding ritual for her and her son, Jared — and it was the same for her daughter, Elzette.
So when her baby girl started refusing milk from her right breast, Matthewson remained positive and simply switched sides as her daughter latched back on.
“I assumed it was more comfortable for her that way,” the 37-year-old said in an article for That’s Life. “Our pediatrician said babies often have a preference, so I didn’t think much of it.”
It wasn’t until January, when Elzette was 14-months-old, that Matthewson spotted a change in her right breast.
“Lifting my arm behind my head, I suddenly felt a hard lump protruding,” she said. “I reasoned that it was probably a blocked milk duct and that’s why Elzette hadn’t been able to feed. So I decided to go to the doctor, who referred me for a mammogram and a scan. Then I had a biopsy.”
Looking back, the mother-of-two says nothing could have prepared her for the news to come. The biopsy revealed high-grade ductal carcinoma in situ — a non-invasive breast cancer contained in the milk ducts.
“The oncologist explained I could have a lumpectomy and radiation therapy, but there was a risk it might not get all the cancerous cells. Or I could opt for a full mastectomy.”
“‘I just want it gone,’ I said, choosing the mastectomy,” she recalls.
Matthewson said she knew she had to hold it together for her kids. After discussing an “action plan” with her husband, Brad, she shared the devastating news with her closest friends.
At the suggestion of her friend, Vicki, Matthewson held a “bye-bye booby” party, inviting 40 female friends and family members to drink wine and celebrate life as a way of coming to term with her illness.
“On February 24 this year, my right breast and four lymph nodes were removed and sent away for testing to see if the cancer had spread. A week later, I peeled back the dressings and looked at my new reflection. The pink scar ran right across the middle of my chest to my underarm.”
Matthewson struggled with self-consciousness for some time after losing her breast, but with the “love and affection” of her husband and the undying support of her mother, she overcame that, too.
Now cancer-free, Matthewson will undergo a breast reconstruction next year. To mark her incredible journey, she’ll hold a “hello booby” party as a fundraiser.
While the cancer-conquering mom has defeated the disease, her fight against cancer isn’t over. Matthewson is dedicated to raising breast cancer awareness amongst women, to help with early detection.
She stresses the importance of knowing your family health history and “urges everyone to check themselves and get to know their bodies.”
You can get behind Matthewson’s cause by donating to her “hello booby” crowd-funding initiative. All funds will go towards raising awareness and supporting families touched by the disease.