Survivor carries message to women
When Val Vallis was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 44 she was determined her daughter would never have to go through the same ordeal. They were going to find a cure. Since then, she has watched both her daughter and granddaughter undergo double maste
Even though she has had breast cancer twice and lost both of her breasts, Val Vallis considers herself lucky.
Each time, she found the cancer early and was able to stop it before it spread to the rest of her body.
Now, Mrs Vallis is appealing to other woman to be aware of the risks and to take a proactive approach with self examination.
‘‘If you find something early you have a chance.
If you leave it too late, chances are, you will end up as a statistic. It happens time and time again,’’ said Mrs Vallis.
For four generations, breast cancer has affected the lives of her and her family.
Her mother died of a secondary cancer that started in her breast; her daughter was diagnosed at age 36 and had a double mastectomy; and her granddaughter had a preventive double mastectomy at just 25.
‘‘When my daughter was diagnosed I was just devastated, it was almost too much for me but I had to have strength for her,’’ said Mrs Vallis.
Her granddaughter Krystal Barter decided to go through with the mastectomy after she was told she had a 90 to 95 per cent chance of developing breast cancer.
While recovering from that operation, Ms Barter started the online community Pink Hope, which offers support to women who are at a high risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Speaking from Australia last week, Ms Barter said her grandmother was one of her biggest inspirations.
‘‘She’s been through more than any woman you could ever meet and she’s still such a beautiful, caring person and she’s always smiling. She’s amazing.’’
Mrs Vallis often visits her granddaughter in Australia and said she was absolutely amazed at what she had achieved with Pink Hope.
‘‘I’m very, very proud of her. She’s done such a wonderful job with this site and helped so many people that are in the same position as she was in.’’
When Mrs Vallis was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1981, she started a similar initiative in the sitting room of her Tower Rd farmhouse. It was the first breast cancer support group in Matamata.
‘‘We put something in the local paper and we were absolutely flooded. So many people came because people didn’t really talk about it back then.
‘‘My lounge was so crowded that people were sitting on the floor.’’
Raising awareness around breast cancer has continued to be a part of Mrs Vallis’ life and with the arrival of her great-granddaughter Bonnie, she is more determined than ever that a cure will be found.