Harnessing knowledge to tackle huge challenges

26 Jun 2024

Kashi Thiris’s cancer journey started with a dream in which she heard the words, 'I am metastatic'.  When she woke up, she thought it was strange that she had been dreaming about a word related to cancer. 

A few days later, Kashi developed a rash on her breast. This wasn’t particularly unusual because she was breastfeeding her daughter at the time. “I just thought it was mastitis, an inflammation in the breast caused by an infection. I was in the bush doing work at my farm, so I didn’t see a doctor.” 

The rash cleared up, and everything seemed fine until she noticed a large lump that had started to grow on her breast. “It grew really fast. Within days, I could see it in the mirror. It was at this point I thought I should see a doctor.” 

After having an ultrasound, mammogram biopsy, and scans, Kashi was diagnosed with Triple-positive breast cancer. As if dealing with breast cancer diagnosis and treatment while caring for two young children wasn’t enough, she was later told her diagnosis had been upgraded to inflammatory breast cancer, a rare, aggressive type of breast cancer that develops fast and invades the skin.  

Following gruelling treatment with a combination of chemotherapy and HER2-targeted therapies, Kashi had a modified radical mastectomy. The area of the tumour had shrunk from 13 cm to 3 mm. This was followed by radiotherapy to manage the small amount of cancer that remained. Overall, her response to treatments was excellent, and her prognosis had improved. 

A particularly pragmatic person, Kashi says once she had the cancer under control, life returned to normal. She was able to focus on caring for her two daughters, Eleni and Olive, and getting her hands dirty by planting garlic on her farm in Tallarook.

In March 2024, Kashi received shocking news. She had experienced excruciating stomach pains and took herself to the Emergency Department, where a gallbladder attack was suspected. Her instincts told her the pain might also be coming from her liver.  “The team at St Vincent’s had discovered a suspicious lesion on my liver a few years ago, thought to be benign. It had been stable, then it disappeared, so they’d stopped monitoring it.

Kashi’s suspicions were accurate. Scans showed her liver was riddled with innumerable tumours. Kashi prepared herself to face another battle. “The cancer is very aggressive, but thankfully, there are medicines that can target it.”  

Kashi said that although it’s daunting, she’s happy and usually gets a decent sleep at night. She’s also armed herself with knowledge. “In between my first breast cancer diagnosis and this cancer, I’ve done a lot of research. There’s some chance that I’ll do okay. This may just be a blip in the road.” 

Although she’s coping well, her kids, particularly her youngest, have become very clingy and need a lot of extra hugs and reassurance. “I’m doing everything I can to fight this and know I’m in good hands. It does make you appreciate the ones you love. And would you believe it’s made me more amenable to doing domestic work! I no longer mind the mundane tasks.”
Watch Kashi's Video 

Kashi said she’s pleased she’s being treated at St Vincent’s. “The staff are lovely. Most of the people are still here from when I was treated five years ago, which is a testament to the team's closeness and the hospital's good culture.” 

The self-confessed ‘Scrabble tragic’ said she’s learnt not to sweat the small stuff. “I’m enjoying time with my family and working on our garlic business. My thirst for learning has also led me to take on a Master of Science degree in Epidemiology. I’ve taken a leave of absence from my study to focus on my treatment, but I do hope to return to it soon.” 

Kashi, her husband John and their daughters, Eleni and Olive, who are now 8 and 12, are also planning a trip to Greece after she has completed a course of chemotherapy.  

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