After losing a close friend to breast cancer, Karen, 48, decided to start getting regular health checks. A digital mammogram revealed that the mother-of-two was diagnosed with breast cancer in her left breast. Karen had a bilateral mastectomy, chemotherapy and a complete breast reconstruction for her treatment. She was also accepted into a clinical trial that used existing drugs to prevent secondary cancers. Karen recently celebrated a decade of being cancer-free and became a community ambassador for NBCF to highlight the need for continued research in breast cancer.
Well, here you are, going on to another milestone birthday that back in 2009 you thought might not see, woohoo!
Who would have imagined a life could become so involved with percentages: do you remember 10 years ago when you read that 91% survived breast cancer and 9% didn’t? Some people thought those odds sounded quite good but to someone who never thought they’d be in the percentage – or to even receive a diagnosis – you often wondered which group you would be in, the 91% or the 9%.
You need to savour all of this because you made it, you did get through it. More importantly, you used the things you learned about breast cancer, treatment, and mostly things you learned about yourself, to work with NBCF towards this moment in 2030.
It seemed like such a futuristic date when they first talked about that as a goal but the NBCF researchers said it was achievable and you always work better with a deadline, so good on you, you embraced it. You made it a personal goal too, because 2030 marks Jamie’s 29th birthday and what could be a better gift from your mother than removing the fear of breast cancer?
You should be proud of yourself; when things got tough, you got tougher. When you needed to just dig deep and get on with it, you did. And when the storm had passed and you’d come out the other side, you found a way to try and make something amazing out of something that had been truly heartbreaking at the time.
Becoming an ambassador for NBCF gave you some power back. It took away the feelings of lack of control that a cancer diagnosis brings. You never did do ‘helpless’ well or for very long – but there were moments when there were some cracks in the armour.
Remember when you were going through treatment; the kids were little, and they were talking about if they were more afraid of spiders or snakes? They asked you what you were most afraid of. You had to gulp down hard and think of something quick because the first answer that popped in your head was: ‘I’m most afraid of not being able to be your Mummy anymore’.
But you used those feelings to spur you on. Yes, there were times when the tears would come when you told your story at a fundraising event, but you knew that by telling your story and pulling up those raw feelings again, you could make a difference.
And so now, here we are it’s 2030 and I hope this letter finds you and the family well and planning some kind of fabulous 70th birthday celebration. A celebration of every scar, wrinkle, and tear. A celebration of life and living and a celebration of NBCF finally reaching the big zero: no-one having to live in fear or a breast cancer diagnosis.
Party hard, embarrass the kids and remember if you’re going to dance on the table, take your shoes off.