My mother, a breast can­cer sur­vivor

Oc­to­ber is Breast Can­cer Aware­ness month and re­porter Rex­ine Hawes shares a per­sonal ac­count of her mother’s jour­ney with the ill­ness.

Matamata Chronicle - - Your Paper, Your Place -

Can­cer is a word of­ten spo­ken among peo­ple in my fam­ily, it’s very preva­lent.

We are lucky, in that can­cer and sur­vivor are two words that are of­ten spo­ken to­gether too.

My mother, great aunty, two cousins, uncle and my sis­ter-in­law Tracy have all been per­son­ally af­fected by breast can­cer. Two of them, my mother and Tracy, are sur­vivors.

Like most peo­ple, you don’t re­alise the true af­fects of can­cer un­til your­self or some­one you love is af­fected by it.

My Mum, Ch­eryl Har­man, a long term res­i­dent in Te Aroha, where I grew up and went to school, was di­ag­nosed the year she turned 50.

I was in my early 20s. I re­mem­ber very clearly when I got the news. I knew peo­ple die from can­cer - which meant my mother was go­ing to die. My world came crash­ing down.

Mum found a lump in her breast in 2004. She ig­nored it for a few weeks, but the lump kept grow­ing.

Her mam­mo­gram re­turned a neg­a­tive re­sult, due to the type of tu­mour, but a nag­ging thought kept com­ing back that she should get it checked by her GP.

Fur­ther investigation showed there was a can­cer­ous tu­mour, which re­quired both chemo­ther­apy and ra­di­a­tion treatment.

I re­mem­ber it like it was yes­ter­day, watch­ing her lose weight and her beau­ti­ful thick mass of hair, refuse all food due to nau­sea from the chemo­ther­apy and mid­night trips in the am­bu­lance to the hospi­tal af­ter her tem­per­a­ture spiked.

But she is a sur­vivor, thank God! And I am so proud of my Mum for be­ing a fighter, she re­minds me ev­ery­day what the hu­man spirit is ca­pa­ble of.

So many women are af­fected by breast can­cer, it is the most com­mon can­cer af­fect­ing women.

While rare, about 20 men a year are also di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer, the same kind that af­fects women.

So men need to be en­cour­aged to pay at­ten­tion to changes or lumps in their breasts as well.

The NZ Breast Can­cer Foun­da­tion tells us, to­day eight women will be di­ag­nosed and this year 600 will most likely die.

A stag­ger­ing 60 per cent of young women do not know the signs of breast can­cer be­yond a lump.

Don’t wait till it’s too late. Pay at­ten­tion to changes in your breasts, do self ex­am­i­na­tions and learn to feel for what’s nor­mal and what’s not.

If in doubt, for good­ness sake, get your breasts checked for lumps or dis­cuss breast changes with your GP. Your life is worth the fight.

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