Sydney manager Katie Thorpe shares how she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 26

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At the age of 26, Katie-Marie Thorpe bought a one-way ticket to the UK and was getting ready to relocate overseas.  

The young media manager from Sydney quit her job, sold her car for extra cash and was head over heels in love with a ‘perfect’ Englishman. 

But three weeks prior to the flight she felt a large, hard lump under her right armpit while in the shower, and immediately made an appointment to see her GP the following day. 

After physicians conducted tests and a biopsy, she received the devastating news in August 2018 that she had stage three breast cancer.

Almost four years on, she finally embarked on her trip to the UK this week alongside the love of her life. 

Katie Thorpe, from Sydney, (pictured) was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2018 after noticing a hard lump under her right armpit while taking a shower

Katie Thorpe, from Sydney, (pictured) was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2018 after noticing a hard lump under her right armpit while taking a shower 

The 26-year-old media manager (right) quit her job and sold her car as she was getting ready to move to the UK - but the trip of a lifetime was put on hold

The 26-year-old media manager (right) quit her job and sold her car as she was getting ready to move to the UK – but the trip of a lifetime was put on hold 

Almost four years on, Katie, now 30, has finally embarked on her trip to the UK this week alongside the love of her life from when she first noticed the lump

Almost four years on, Katie, now 30, has finally embarked on her trip to the UK this week alongside the love of her life from when she first noticed the lump

Katie said the lump was ‘smaller than a golf ball’ and it was her only symptom. 

Recalling the day she was told the awful news, Katie said: ‘I was in complete shock and denial; I don’t think I heard anything else the doctor said, it was all such a blur, I’m glad my mum was with me.’ 

The unexpected diagnosis quickly put her overseas plans on hold. 

Katie was initially told she wouldn’t need to undergo chemotherapy treatments, but two surgeries revealed the lump was larger than anticipated. 

Soon after she began the first of 18 rounds of chemotherapy which spanned across six months, followed by three months of radiotherapy. 

‘I had some odd side effects from the chemo, like neuropathy and changes to my taste buds,’ she said. 

‘I became a vegetarian because meat had a metallic taste – and I still continue to not eat meat to this day.’ 

Katie continued to work full-time during her gruelling treatments and tried to live life as she normally would. 

Katie was initially told she wouldn't need to undergo chemotherapy treatments, but two surgeries revealed the lump was larger than anticipated

Katie was initially told she wouldn’t need to undergo chemotherapy treatments, but two surgeries revealed the lump was larger than anticipated

After the treatments were complete, Katie gained back a sense of normality by working out regularly and starting a new job. 

But during an oncology check-up appointment in May 2020 she was told that her  cancer had returned. This time it had spread beyond her breast and into the bones of her ribs, spine and pelvis.  

‘The hardest words I’ll ever hear in my life was when he told me the cancer is treatable but not curable, it was a terminal stage four diagnosis,’ she said. 

Katie was told she will need to be on medication for the rest of her life as the cancer isn’t treatable, only manageable. 

Her partner had originally moved from the UK to Australia and luckily the couple were able to secure a visa after Katie’s diagnosis during the pandemic. 

Katie's partner (pictured) had originally moved from the UK to Australia and luckily the couple were able to secure a visa after Katie's diagnosis

Katie’s partner (pictured) had originally moved from the UK to Australia and luckily the couple were able to secure a visa after Katie’s diagnosis

Katie had 18 rounds of chemotherapy which spanned across six months, followed by three months of radiotherapy

She lost her hair and her tastebuds changed, so she became a vegetarian

Katie had 18 rounds of chemotherapy which spanned across six months, followed by three months of radiotherapy. She lost her hair and her tastebuds changed, so she became a vegetarian

For almost two years Katie has been on the same medication since the day of the second prognosis – she takes a daily oral tablet and needs injections every couple of months.   

The type of cancer is also ‘fuelled by hormones’, which means she’s been put into ‘chemo-induced menopause’ causing her to gain weight.

The medication prevents the hormones from growing and so far it’s helped ‘stabilise’ the cancer as planned. 

Katie also made the decision not to look into prognosis and life expectancy statistics until the ‘last resort’. 

Now, like many around Australia, she lives with an ‘invisible’ chronic illness.  

Unfortunately in May 2020 Katie hit another road block and was told the cancer had unfortunately returned. This time it had spread beyond the breast and into her bones. The cancer isn't curable and she need to be on medication for the rest of her life

Unfortunately in May 2020 Katie hit another road block and was told the cancer had unfortunately returned. This time it had spread beyond the breast and into her bones. The cancer isn’t curable and she need to be on medication for the rest of her life 

How to self-examine your breasts:  

Step 1: Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.

Here’s what you should look for:

  • Breasts that are their usual size, shape, and color
  • Breasts that are evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling

If you see any of the following changes, bring them to your doctor’s attention:

  • Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin
  • A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of sticking out)
  • Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling

Step 2: Raise your arms and look for the same changes

Step 3: While you’re at the mirror, look for any signs of fluid coming out of one or both nipples (this could be a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood)

Step 4: Next, feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together

Step 5: Finally, feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting

Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do this step in the shower

Cover your entire breast, using the same hand movements described in step 4

Source: breastcancer.org   

Katie is sharing her story on social media to encourage women to self-examine their breasts, as it could help save lives. 

‘I think a lot of things about you change when you become a cancer patient and I really wanted to make sure it didn’t encompass my whole life. I wanted to hold onto who I was,’ she said. 

‘That really helped give me a sense of purpose during treatment.’ 

Since her first prognosis Katie said her partner has been ‘her rock’ and provided ongoing support. 

This week the two embarked on a three-week trip to the UK and Katie will meet his parents for the first time in person. 

More than anything, Katie believes young women should advocate for themselves and never put anything off. 

‘Don’t be afraid to get checked if you notice anything different about your body and always get a second opinion of you need to,’ she said.

Not-for-profits like Wellness Day encourage women to take time for themselves and get checked. 

Katie also shares her story with hundreds on Instagram page here. 



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