Former Olympian Jane Flemming reveals cancer hell
AUSTRALIAN champion athlete Jane Flemming has spent almost three months in a secret battle with breast cancer.
The 52-year-old former Olympian and Commonwealth Games champion had a double mastectomy in May after an almost accidental diagnosis.
"If I'd left it even for three more months this wouldn't have been a good story," Flemming said as she revealed her secret battle to Woman's Day, in the hope more woman will have a mammogram.
She has been a National Breast Cancer Foundation ambassador for two decades, but nothing prepared her for the grim news.
She told the magazine the terrifying journey began early this year when she went to see her doctor for a routine pap smear.
She was prescribed a low dose of oestrogen, and also sent for a mammogram, which in May revealed a lump in her left breast.
As shock set in, she kept a lid on the tears.
"I didn't cry. Not then," Flemming said of how she initially reacted to the news.
"I walked home to clear my head and rang a very good friend and then I burst into tears."
She managed to remain composed as she told her husband, Ian Purchas, and was determined to shield her twin boys, James and Samuel.
"I'm sure I was in a state of shock," Flemming said.
"Ian got home later that night and it was fairly emotional but we were very much trying to keep our boys' lives unaffected at this point."
After emergency exploratory surgery the seemingly interminable wait began to see how bad the tumour was.
Flemming says that two-and-a-half week wait was the worst period of her life.
It revealed the 5cm tumour would have to be removed.
Given a choice of radiation therapy, hormone treatment of mastectomy, Flemming decided to have both breasts removed. It would, she told Woman's Day, "give me the greatest chance of it never coming back".
Six days after her breasts were removed on June 30, Flemming was told the operation had been a success.
But the relief was short-lived: a fortnight later she had to go under the knife again to scrape off more cells.
It would take four operations before the two-time Olympian and dual Commonwealth Games gold medalllist would be given the all-clear.
Free routine mammographic screening is available through BreastScreen Australia services in each Australian state for women aged 50 to 74 years old.