Brave Remarkable Woman

Brave Remarkable Woman

With the week ahead all about our Pink Ribbon fundraiser I am very honoured to have stories from my family and two of my amazing friends to share with you.  Such brave incredible women. I have so much love and respect for you all. 
My gorgeous cousin Heidi tells her story and that of her mum, my favourite aunt, and her sister Ruth.

About ten years ago, after her own experiences with breast cancer, along with other family members, my mother discovered that she had BRCA1 (an inherited gene that increases the risk of female breast and ovarian cancer).  Subsequenty my sister and I also tested positive for the BRCA1.
At the time we were told that we had an 80% chance of developing breast and ovarian cancer, and we were advised to have our breasts off and ovaries out by age 40.
It was a lot to take in.  I was single and hoping one day to have a family, so I opted to be under surveillance, which meant having mammograms and MRIs annually.
During lockdown last year, almost ten years after being told I had BRCA1, I was called back to discuss the results of my recent MRI.
They had found DCIS (Ductal carcinoma in situ) this is considered the earliest form of breast cancer.  I was given my options by a breast surgeon, but there was no mistaking she wanted it out as soon as possible.  It was just a matter of what surgery I opted for, having had and breastfeed my two children already.
After many appointments and varying advice, I opted for a doubt mastectomy and reconstruction.
On reflection I am very grateful.  I'm lucky to live in this country where I was supported by the medical system - from discovering I had BRCA1, to monitoring me, and finally getting surgery.
I am very grateful my mother went to the trouble to find out she had BRCA1.  I was also lucky to have wonderful friends and family who have always supported me.
I will be holding a Pink Ribbon Breakfast again this year also. I hope we can all support the Breast Cancer Foundation and all the work they do.
My dear friend Pip wrote -

I didn't even want to call it a journey because to me a journey was a good thing and so much of it was bad.  Subconciously I ignored my 'detour' in order to actually get through it.  In a way I dealt with it by not dealing with it!  However I will say that Cancer allowed me to actually slow down and to 'de clutter' so many of the things in my life that really aren't as important as I once thought.  It reiterated my gratitude for all that is good in the world - especially the good people 

Shit happens
Every day
To everyone
The difference is how we response
My beautiful friend Ange wrote -

I still remember the day back in 2018, finding the lump, then two days later in between doctors appointments finding a second lump.  My diagnosis was stage 3 Breast Cancer.  The initial shock and fear of the unknown was overwhelming.  Before my treatment started, I would wake each morning scared, worried, anxious and feeling sick to my stomach.  After day two of feeling like this I realised I needed to find and keep a positive mindset so that I could stay strong and positive for my family, myself and to get through the journey ahead.  I never once felt alone.  I had the most amazing supportive family, friends, doctors and community, and for this I will always be grateful.  Within just two weeks of finding the lumps I was booked in for surgery for a lumpectomy and removal of 21 lymph nodes.  A month later after healing from surgery I started chemotherapy.  Both starting and finishing chemo was a moment I am most proud of.  Out of all my treatments it was chemo that scared me the most.  I was terrified of it, I lost sleep and experienced a lot of intense anxiety.  I ended up reaching out to people who had experienced chemo themselves.  This was so helpful, and I am so thankful for these people. I now have people reach out to me often for information, advice and reassurance.  Yes the treatments can be hard, but they are all manageable and I feel very lucky that there are treatments like these available for those with breast cancer because if they weren't available then myself and many others wouldn't be here today.  I do still take a tablet daily to reduce the risk of reoccurrence.  I have a real love hate relationship with this tablet, over time I have learnt to accept its side effects and acknowledge its benefits especially when I see friends losing loved ones to incurable cancers.

One of the things I have learned from my experience is that supporting others through their diagnosis and treatments is so incredibly important.  If I can be of any help to anyone who might be going through something like this then please get in touch with Clare for my contact details.
My lovely cousin Clare wrote this before she lost her battle with breast cancer in 2011.  Her mum Raema who misses her every single day sent this to me. I feel very privileged to share this with you. 
She was 41. 

How lucky am I?
It was a warm summer afternoon, I was playing with our three year old son in the waiting room at the medical centre.  I was 33 years old.  We were surrounded by lovely grey haired women who were asking me what I was doing at the centre.  After a mammogram, biopsy and ultrasound we waited for some time to see the doctor.  A lovely nurse held my hand and said sorry, there's no easy way to tell you this.
Cancer is an unusual disease. Those on the outside looking in would never know unless you are having treatment that makes you unwell or causes you to loose your hair.  My husband accepted me with one breast, bald at times, radiation scarred, he never made me feel less attractive.  My elder son was more aware of my illness, telling children never becomes easier.  Life with cancer is a roller coaster, Live every day on a high and deal with the lows as positively as you can.  Cancer provides an unusual opportunity.  How many people in the world have the opportunity during their life time to spend quality time with the ones they love and say goodbye before they die.  
How lucky am I
I have lived with cancer for a decade and misdiagnosed many times because of my age.
I am blown away by my wonderful children, husband, family and friends who have always been there for me and never fail to surprise me with their love and support.  I am totally spoilt by all, I know how lucky I am

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