‘I thought it was all over’, survivor says
You’re too young for breast cancer, it’s probably nothing to worry about, a doctor told Anete Smith 15 years ago.
She was in her 30s and had recently emigrated to New Zealand from the United Kingdom.
The Auckland resident had spent the previous two weeks working up the courage to get a lump on her right breast checked out.
That lump was something to worry about, it turns out, and had Smith accepted that doctor’s advice she might not be alive today.
Instead, she sought a second opinion and was given the news no woman wants to hear - she had breast cancer.
Rounds of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a lumpectomy followed. Six months later, at a scheduled mammogram check, cancer was discovered in her left breast. That was a devastating blow.
‘‘I thought it was all over, but it wasn’t. I would have to go through it all over again... It felt like I lost control of my body and I tried to find ways of taking control of it again.’’
Smith had a double mastectomy, a hard decision, but one she’s pleased with. She said while she was impressed with the standard of healthcare in New Zea- land compared to overseas, she wished doctors would take it more seriously.
‘‘Being younger it can be quite dangerous because you don’t take it seriously and you don’t realise you can get it.’’
Nearly two decades later, the 51-year-old is confident her cancer battle is over.
Of the nine women who get diagnosed with breast cancer today, one of those will be a lady younger than 45.
That’s 365 young women a year, according to the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation.
It’s likely these young women are detecting cancer through symptoms like lumps or pain, foundation chief executive Evangelia Henderson said.
The regular screened mammograms are available every two years and are free for women aged 45 to 69 and not recommended for women under 40.
This month Smith is one of three survivors sharing her story for the Breast Cancer Foundation’s awareness campaign.