Within days of Peta-Jane Secrett receiving some of the happiest news of her life, she was also given some of the worst.
In August last year, the 36-year-old discovered she was pregnant with her second child — a sibling for her toddler Harry — and was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Mrs Secrett had been prompted to do a self-examination after hearing a podcast about a woman who had breast cancer.
“I detected a lump and went to the GP who recommended I get it checked and because I knew there was chance I was pregnant they did an ultrasound rather than a mammogram but I wasn’t that worried and thought it would be fine,” she said.
“By the time I went back I had found out I was definitely pregnant, so they did a biopsy and that came back with the diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma.
“So I learnt on a Friday that I was pregnant and the following Thursday found out I had breast cancer.”
Mrs Secrett and her husband Ben faced the dilemma of wanting to fight the cancer while not harming their unborn baby.
Thanks to medical research, doctors reassured her she could continue with the pregnancy and they could pinpoint exactly when and how she could have cancer treatment safely.
Mrs Secrett had a mastectomy when she was seven weeks pregnant, followed by 22 weeks of chemotherapy at 12 weeks when she had passed the most risky time in the pregnancy.
She had her last chemotherapy session when she was 32 weeks pregnant, getting odd looks while sitting in the clinic with other cancer patients.
Once baby Oliver was safely delivered at 37 weeks, Mrs Secrett started radiation therapy. She is now doing well and taking medication to prevent the cancer from returning.
Mrs Secrett is on a mission to encourage women to check their breasts, particularly younger women not having regular mammograms, and is taking part in the Walk for Women’s Cancer in May, which raises funds for cancer research at the Harry Perkins Institute.
“It’s my way to pay back for the amazing care I had, which was only made possible by research that could reassure me that I could safely have cancer treatment around my pregnancy,” she said.
“Ben and I were very comforted … that while I would have an unconventional treatment path, it would nonetheless be effective and wouldn’t pose any harm to the baby.
“We were told that the only possible effect was low birth weight but Ollie turned out to be average weight for 37 weeks and is now perfectly healthy.”
For details of the walk, visit walkforwomenscancer.org.au