A Brisbane triathlete is now in her own race for life after she was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer.

Simeone Mitchell has undergone a double mastectomy at Mater Private Hospital Brisbane, radiation treatment and is currently enduring intensive chemotherapy treatment at Mater Private Hospital Redland.

The 56-year-old nurse’s shock diagnosis came just a year after she lost her son, Adam, to suicide – a blow which she is still coming to terms with.

As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Mrs Mitchell is sharing her story to give hope to other health-conscious women fighting the disease.

After noticing a change in appearance to one of her nipples in September last year, Mrs Mitchell said she went to her GP for medical advice, and within days, the mother-of-two was told by her GP she had an aggressive form of breast cancer.

“My GP sent me for a mammogram which led to an immediate biopsy which showed I had cancer,” Mrs Mitchell, of Carina, said.

Mater Director of Medical Services Dr Chris Pyke said Mrs Mitchell, 56, had a combination of two uncommon variants of breast cancer, with only 1% of patients diagnosed with the disease.

“Simeone has an invasive lobular cancer and about 10% of breast cancers are this type. Her cancer is also HER2-positive, and only 5% of lobular cancers are this type,” Dr Pyke said.

HER2-positive breast cancer is a cancer that tests positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, which promotes the growth of cancer cells.

Dr Pyke said before Mrs Mitchell underwent her double mastectomy in June, her cancer was treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy, a treatment “on the rise” and used for about 30% of patients with a new diagnosis.

Mrs Mitchell said living with cancer was a process she had to get through.

“Nothing can be worse than Adam dying,” she said.

“Being diagnosed with cancer has meant I haven’t been able to grieve for my son.

“I got into exercise and triathlons after Adam’s death and suddenly I can’t do that anymore.

“I had plans to compete in a triathlon at Hamilton Island and then the Mooloolaba Tri but cancer treatment got in the way.”

She described living with cancer as “annoying” and thanked her family and friends for their ongoing support.

“My husband Stu and daughter Erin, friends, workmates, and tri club have provided endless love and support and I would not have made it this far without them,” she said.

“I won’t give up. I want to get better.

“I have no breasts now. I’m flat and that’s fine. I can go for a walk and not wear a bra. It doesn’t bother me at all. I lost my hair, my fingernails, my eye lashes and eyebrows – every bit of hair on my body.

“The reality is, for me it’s easier to have a breast cancer diagnosis than live with mental health issues like Adam did.”

Mater Private Hospital Redland Oncologist Dr Paul Kalokerinos, who is treating Mrs Mitchell, said breast cancer could affect “fit and healthy” women and encouraged regular self-checks and routine breast screening.

Dr Kalokerinos said a targeted treatment called TDM1 was used to treat Mrs Mitchell’s breast cancer.

“Siemone will aim to complete the 14 cycles of TDM1. Targeted therapies target a specific component of the cancer cells to better direct the treatment to only affect abnormal cells,” Dr Kalokerinos said.

“TDM1 has been around for a number of years but has only been used in this setting in the last 18 -24 months,” Dr Kalokerinos said.


Tips to keep in mind from Mater Private Hospital Director of Medical Services, Dr Chris Pyke:

  • A mammogram is still the best screening tool for women without a lump or symptoms
  • New lumps in post-menopausal women need proper and timely assessment
  • New lumps in pre-menopausal women are less likely to be cancer, but also need proper and timely assessment
  • If you feel a lump, then a negative mammogram is not 100 guarantee there is no cancer
  • If you feel a lump, see your GP, who will organise appropriate imaging (often an ultrasound and tissue sampling) and a repeat mammogram if you have not had one within the last six months

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