‘I HAD NONE OF THE RISK FAC­TORS’

Rachelle Pan­tiz, 37, from Queens­land, never ex­pected to be af­fected by can­cer

Cosmopolitan (Australia) - - Ycc Wrap-up -

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’

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