Australia COVID left Jacqui struggling to breathe, but helped catch her aggressive early-stage breast cancer

23:26  22 june  2021
23:26  22 june  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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Jacqui Matthew has no doubt COVID-19 saved her life.

The 48-year-old teacher just couldn't catch her breath after she tested positive for the deadly virus in March last year.

She had contracted coronavirus from her son, who had been infected by a university classmate who attended the "super spreading" wedding at Stanwell Tops, south of Sydney.

Ms Matthew said her son and daughter, who also got the virus, only had a bit of a sore throat, but her symptoms were like a "really heavy cold".

"All my bones were really heavy, like I just felt really, really off," Ms Matthew said.

"The worst was the breathing — even after I'd recovered from everything I couldn't catch my breath.

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"There were days [my husband] had to feed me and wash me. I was just so sick."

Ms Matthew's family spent 29 days in hard lockdown because she couldn't go three days without experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

"I kept having COVID tests and I definitely didn't have it anymore, but I hadn't quite recovered," she said.

"I just couldn't get my lungs working properly."

Ms Matthew's GP ordered an MRI of her lungs to check for damage, but the local radiology centre wouldn't accept her because she'd had COVID-19.

Her doctor eventually got her in for a scan at Gosford Hospital on New South Wales' Central Coast.

"Thank goodness they did because their technician said, 'There's nothing wrong with the lungs COVID-wise but there's something here that needs investigating.'"

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The scan revealed an aggressive form of breast cancer.

Two days after the diagnosis, Ms Matthew spent her 49th birthday on the operating table.

"My doctor said if we had left it another couple of years it would have been a very different story," she said.

"COVID almost literally saved my life. I've no doubt in my mind at all.

"There's no way I would have had a mammogram. I wouldn't have picked it up.

"It would have been another couple of years before I would have even thought about it — if I thought about it."

The national breast cancer screening program, BreastScreen Australia, offers free mammograms for women aged 40 years and over but invitations are only mailed to women aged 50 to 75.

The Department of Health says more than 75 per cent of breast cancers fall in the 50 to 74 years age group, and research shows that women aged 40 to 49 won't benefit from regular mammograms.

Ms Matthew had a second operation to remove more of the cancer, followed by four rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.

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She completed her final treatment this week and is now in remission.

It has been a rough 12 months but Ms Matthew is aware of how lucky she is to have made it to the other end.

Tragically, her sister-in-law, 62, passed away from breast cancer in November on Ms Matthew's second day of radiation treatment.

Her cancer had been detected by a bone scan after she suffered shoulder pain that couldn't be treated by a physiotherapist.

"It really hit home how lucky I was," Ms Matthew said.

"Her cancer wasn't caught until stage four, whereas I was stage one."

Ms Matthew said breathing exercises she had to do in order to have radiation treatment also helped her get the after-effects of COVID-19 under control.

"Sort of like COVID detected cancer, but then the cancer treatment helped COVID," she said.

"They sort of went hand in hand."

[Zendesk COVID form embed]

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