‘I HAD NONE OF THE RISK FACTORS’
Rachelle Pantiz, 37, from Queensland, never expected to be affected by cancer
27.4% of all new cancers in women are breast cancers.
LIFE BEFORE my diagnosis was amazing. I was building a career in international government relations that I had been working towards since university. I was excited for what my future had in store. My daughter was two years old, and my husband and
I were preparing for the arrival of my son.
I was lying in bed one night during the later stages of my pregnancy and I saw a reminder card from the Sydney Breast Cancer Foundation that my sister had sent me hanging in my cupboard.
It reminded me to do a selfbreast exam – I felt a hard lump on the side of my right breast, and weeks later, it was confirmed I had cancer.
Because of the excessive treatment, I wasn’t able to spend those precious first months with my son that every mother has a right to.
Going through all the treatment gave me the opportunity to reassess my life and what I wanted to do. After I finished my own treatment, I decided to change direction and this lead me to starting a charity specifically for young women with breast cancer. So Brave: Australia’s Young Women’s Breast Cancer Charity has been a massive passion project but also a healing adventure. I have met incredible young women across the country – suddenly, I’m not the girl with breast cancer, but the person helping other young women to heal, share their stories and inspire others.
It’s now four and a half years since I was first diagnosed. I’m still seeing doctors, taking tablets daily and getting annual scans. I will be doing these things for most of my life. Being so close to five years since diagnosis gives me a lot to celebrate. Next year, my husband and I and a group of So Brave supporters will be walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I am so excited to be able to travel overseas again with my family.
Young women need to get to know their bodies and be their best health advocates. Had it not been for trusting my own instincts, I’m not sure where I might be now.
Cancer does not discriminate. I was young, I had breastfed, I’d never smoked, I didn’t drink a lot of alcohol, there is no history of breast or any other cancer in my family and yet I was diagnosed despite not having any of the risk factors.
The whirlwind of treatment and diagnosis is one of the worst things I’ve ever faced, but I’ve come through it even stronger and more determined to change the future, especially for my daughter and son. In their lifetime, cancer will be understood, it will be treatable, and hopefully, it will be cured. One day this will all be a distant memory.
‘Cancer does not discriminate by age’