Jane’s road to re­cov­ery

A rou­tine check-up which de­tected breast cancer left the Olympian in shock and tears

The Morning Bulletin - - YOU - BY Kiri ten Dolle

FOR­MER Olympian Jane Flem­ming has al­ways been at the peak of health. But never has the Aus­tralian cham­pion ath­lete felt more vul­ner­a­ble than when she re­ceived a shock breast cancer di­ag­no­sis ear­lier this year.

“I had no point­ers to­wards breast cancer at all,” the 52-year-old tells Week­end. “I am healthy, fit and have al­ways looked af­ter my body.”

Had Jane waited three more months to find out, her story may not be as “good” as the one she tells to­day. She dis­cov­ered she had cancer al­most by mis­take fol­low­ing a rou­tine mam­mo­gram.

“I took an un­ex­pected phone call in the mid­dle of Syd­ney’s city cen­tre from the spe­cial­ist sur­geon who in­formed me my biopsy was pos­i­tive and that I had the op­por­tu­nity to have fur­ther surgery the next day,” Jane re­calls of her May di­ag­no­sis.

“I was def­i­nitely in shock. I called my hus­band who was in­ter­state.

“We dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­ity of me hav­ing fur­ther surgery the next day and then I called back the sur­geon to con­firm we would go ahead. It was all very sur­real.

“The day was very gloomy. I walked home for 50 min­utes to try and digest what was hap­pen­ing. Of course I cried, but I was still very much in shock.”

Jane, who won gold medals in the hep­tathlon and long jump at the 1990 Com­mon­wealth Games, was di­ag­nosed with duc­tal car­ci­noma in situ, which means the cancer starts in­side the milk ducts.

“At this point we un­der­stood it to be com­pletely con­tained,” Jane says.

“Fur­ther surgery showed it was about five cen­time­tres (in size) and it was very dif­fi­cult to get full clear­ance af­ter the re­moval of the DCIS, so more pro­ce­dures were re­quired.

“I had ab­so­lutely no symp­toms.”

Nor did the mother of twins have a fam­ily his­tory of breast cancer.

Her treat­ment re­quired four surg­eries in eight weeks, in­clud­ing a dou­ble mas­tec­tomy at the ad­vice of her sur­geon. Jane’s hus­band Ian Pur­chas and twin boys James and Sa­muel were by her side.

“Four months later I feel I have re­cov­ered very well both phys­i­cally and men­tally,” she says.

“I was given the all-clear on Mon­day, July 24, 10 weeks af­ter the first biopsy surgery. It was very in­tense, (and) at times tor­tur­ous.”

Jane has been an am­bas­sador for the Na­tional Breast Cancer

The day was very gloomy. I walked home for 50 min­utes to try and digest what was hap­pen­ing. Of course I cried, but I was still very much in shock

Foun­da­tion for two decades af­ter see­ing a close friend bat­tle the dis­ease.

“I never thought I would be one of the women I used to in­ter­view (as) MC for events over the last 20 years.

“It was purely luck that I dis­cov­ered my cancer, so no mat­ter how re­moved you think you are or how lit­tle chance you think you might have of get­ting breast cancer, no one is ex­cluded from the risk. Get a reg­u­lar mam­mo­gram, check your breasts.”

In 2014 Jane was awarded the Or­der of Aus­tralia for ser­vices to ath­let­ics and the com­mu­nity. She was also named one of West­pac and the Fi­nan­cial Re­view’s “100 Most In­flu­en­tial Women” in 2016.

Jane Flem­ming watches a Breast Cancer Foun­da­tion event in Syd­ney in 2010, and be­low right, Flem­ming car­ries the Com­mon­wealth Games Queen's Ba­ton through Cir­cu­lar Quay in Syd­ney on Aus­tralia Day in 2006.


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