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.
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.