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'It felt alien' - Jenny Oh's shock discovery on plane led to months-long health battle22 Jul 2022

'It felt alien' Jenny Oh's shock discovery on plane led to months-long health battle

Jenny Oh was jet setting across the US at the end of November in 2019 when she felt a lump that would change her life.

"I was on a plane and I felt my chest was itchy so I scratched it and felt a large lump," Oh, 38, tells 9Honey.

"I just knew it wasn't a good story. Something was wrong, it felt alien."

"There was no family history, no signs, no symptoms. It was a complete shock."

As soon as she arrived at her hotel, Oh booked an appointment with her doctor back in Sydney, and within days, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.

"There was no family history, no signs, no symptoms. It was a complete shock," she shares.

Oh began receiving treatment at Sydney's Chris O'Brien Lifehouse, which included five months of bi-weekly and weekly chemotherapy, a lumpectomy to remove the cancerous cells and 25 rounds of radiotherapy.

The HR director endured her months of treatment throughout the first wave of Australia's coronavirus lockdown period, and says the isolation was "traumatic"

"I was halfway through chemo when COVID hit, and I remember having to walk to treatment by myself, sit in the chair for hours all alone, and cope with it all in solitude," she shares.

(image supplied)

"It was the loneliest I ever felt in my life. You really need your friends and family around you and everyone was stuck at home."

Despite the isolation she experienced, Oh says a silver lining formed in the care the nurses of the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse showed her.

"Sitting there for hours alone with the thoughts in my head was miserable," she shares, adding, "the nurses, however, made the experience actually enjoyable, dare I say it."

"They made you feel like they were your friend, there is not enough praise for them. They worked round the clock to give patients personal care and support. They were instrumental in saving my life."

Jenny Oh was alone while undergoing extensive treatment for aggressive cancer during covid. (Getty)

Oh, who is now into recovery, is speaking out about her experience as a young woman diagnosed with breast cancer, to encourage others to be aware of their bodies.

Having signed on to share her story at the Sydney Breast Cancer Foundation's annual fundraiser The Rugby Long Lunch in 2022, to help raise vital funds for cancer research and patient care, Oh says COVID-19 has posed a major challenge to the cancer charity.

With the lockdown cancelling the charity's major event twice previously, the cancer survivor says she "fears" the impact it may have on raising awareness and donations for the foundation's efforts.

"Funding is needed, not only to find a cure but to help raise awareness for women of all ages to understand what's going on," Jenny explains.

"We've been in lockdown so long, fearing this virus, that we forget there are other dangers to our bodies we need to remain mindful of."

Breast cancer remains the most diagnosed cancer in Australia, with 20,000 diagnoses annually. In 2021, the National Breast Cancer Foundation reported it was the second most common cause of death from cancer in females.

With 55 Australians diagnosed each day and one in seven Australian women facing a breast cancer diagnosis throughout their life, the past decade has seen breast cancer diagnosis increase by 36 per cent.

"We are proud to raise funds, to make sure patients and their families receive the care and support they need whilst facing breast cancer." - Lynne Crookes, OAM, Director of SBCF

"The problem we are facing is that whilst patients continued to be diagnosed and treated for breast cancer during the pandemic, our fundraising had largely come to a halt for 18 months."

She added, "we have committed to supporting various areas of funding, and we don't want to have to cease these commitments. It would directly impact the lives of breast cancer patients if we did."

Jenny during her treatment. 

Oh said amid her cancer journey, she learnt the value of preventative care and being informed about her body.

"I didn't think breast checks were relevant to me before I got cancer - I didn't even know how to do one," she shares, adding "but we need to be familiar with what's normal for our bodies and not ignore the fears we may have."

"If you're not sure about something, ask the question again, ask and ask until you understand."

When asked what she's most looking forward to, post-treatment, Oh simply said, "having long hair again."

(Jenny spoke at the SBCF Rugby Long Lunch this year - with long hair!)

This story was originally written by Bianca Farmakis and has been re-published with full permission from Nine Honey.

Here in Australia, 1 in 7 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, it is the most commonly diagnosed cancer, and sadly 8 people will die each day from this disease.
Sydney Breast Cancer Foundation continues to drive community discussion about an individual’s breast health, both self-check and regular mammograms, and seeking the guidance of a qualified health professional for personalised care.

Do your 3-step Breast Check today.