Real Life

Breast cancer at 26: My boyfriend found my lump

Amber’s diagnosis helped her discover a new passion
Amber Arkell

After being diagnosed with breast cancer at just 26 years of age, Auckland Amber Arkell has a new mission – spreading awareness through her blog, ‘When Things Went Tits Up’.

The former marketing manager’s partner of three years, Kieran Wilson, was the first to notice something was wrong when he felt a lump in her right breast.

“We were both like, ‘That’s not meant to be there,’” Amber says of the moment the lump was discovered.

She was eventually diagnosed after a nerve-wracking round of tests and specialist appointments – but for the fit and healthy communications diagnosis, cancer wasn’t something that had ever crossed her mind.

Amber, with boyfriend Kieran and dog Ava, has used her experiences to reach thousands of women.

“I could sit here and say, ‘What could I have done differently?’ or, ‘Why me?’ But there’s no point in dwelling. The fantastic thing in my situation is that we found it early, which provided me with options for treatment. Many people don’t get that chance.”

After a partial mastectomy, Amber was told she would need chemotherapy, radiation and 10 months of the drug Herceptin – something she admits she initially struggled to deal with.

“Starting chemo and knowing what that was going to do to my body made me re-evaluate my life and think about what’s really important,” said Amber, who was forced to quit her beloved job.

“For us, that was getting out of the rat race and moving down to Christchurch.”

A brunette Amber before she got sick.

A month ago, Amber and Kieran, 31, relocated to the Garden City, where she can now focus on getting through her last two rounds of chemo and working on her blog. Initially created as a way to update friends and family on her personal journey, the blog has turned into a vehicle to spread the word about breast-cancer detection, and has attracted followers and media attention from around the world.

“It’s been really rewarding for me, especially when women say they have gone to have mammograms they’d put off or feel more educated about breast awareness because of the blog,” she tells.

“I hope that by sharing my story, I can inspire, educate and motivate others because thanks to breast cancer, that’s something I have learnt I am truly passionate about.”

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