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

Matamata Chronicle - - News -

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.