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One Woman’s Breast Cancer Journey: It’s Not Just About the Breast

June 21, 2021

One Woman’s Breast Cancer Journey: It’s Not Just About the Breast

In her book It’s Not (Just) About the Breast, Petrina Burnett writes of being diagnosed with stage 3 triple-negative breast cancer and subsequently learning of her BRCA1 mutation at the age of 31 in 2007 in Perth, Western Australia.

Navigating a Cancer Diagnosis

As for many young adults diagnosed with cancer, Petrina learns that her diagnosis has far-reaching and unexpected consequences. Not only must she confront further preventative surgeries including bilateral mastectomies, breast reconstructions and salpingo-oophorectomies, but she also finds herself confronting the longer-term side effects of chemo and radiation therapy such as lowered energy levels and cardiac changes. As a single woman without children, she also navigates many career, relationship and financial challenges to get her back on track after her diagnosis. Petrina also takes us through her struggles with infertility- a side effect she is unfortunately unable to overcome despite her efforts.

It’s Not (Just) About the Breast also takes us through Petrina’s family history, sharing stories of her grandmother, aunt and cousin’s breast and ovarian cancer diagnoses at young ages. She also talks of the follow-on effects after her BRCA1 diagnosis, whereby her family so bravely confront many hurdles and emotions as they discover their negative and positive genetic test results. During this difficult fall out phase, she recounts the importance of both patience and empathy for oneself and for each other. Navigating this often-uncharted territory is not always easy.

Moving Forward

It’s Not (Just) About the Breast provides insights and ideas about how to approach the postdiagnosis pathway. Petrina discusses the importance of loving, supportive and meaningful relationships with friends and family. We are not alone, even if our experiences sometimes feel isolating and difficult. As an oncological breast and lymphoedema physiotherapist, she also demonstrates the importance of holistic and comprehensive healthcare and rehabilitation. Optimal healing in mind, body and beyond helps us to move forward and create an even better tomorrow.

Petrina shows us that life still goes on with all of its absolute beauty, and we can move on too, reconciling the changes, keeping up our courage, bouncing back to strength and wellness as much as possible and remaining open to the positives and opportunities that life can hold. Cancer diagnoses at a young age as a gene mutation carrier is a path less walked, but there is so much for the world to take away from it. There are many ways to live a very happy, fulfilling and whole life, even when our lives come to look different from what we had always envisaged.

Her E-book ($3.33USD) and paperback are available on Amazon. See for details.


“Petrina recounts her 14-year cancer journey with honesty, dignity, and compassion and beautifully demonstrates how resilience can help us move towards “a better tomorrow.”

—Assoc. Prof. Paul Cohen, BA, BM, BCh, MA, MD, Dip. Obs.

“This book provides invaluable advice on how this one remarkable woman overcame many of her hurdles to not just survive but to live, thrive and kick ass!”

—Prof. Christobel Saunders, Prof. Surgical Oncology, MBBS, Order of Australia.

“Not only does this book show the power of one woman’s experience about life, love and the impact of breast cancer for a young woman, but it also tells of Petrina’s extraordinary life and how she has utilized her skills to empathize, listen, research and understand the needs of voiceless. Petrina’s reflections are a true insight.”

—Ms. Kirsten Pilatti, CEO, Breast Cancer Network Australia

Posted in: Books And Movies
Tags: Hereditary Cancer , Breast Cancer , BRCA1 , Coping With Risk

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