I was just 33 years old, married with 2 young children. There was no family history of breast cancer and no lumps in my breasts, either visible or by touch. I had no idea that an aggressive form of breast cancer was already invading my body. An ultrasound revealed 2 tumours and I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2007. A whirlwind of events followed – first a biopsy, then a lumpectomy, a mastectomy and the gruelling chemotherapy.
I had just gone to my GP for my annual check-up and she performed all the usual blood tests, blood pressure, pap smear and breast exam. Nothing unusual was felt in the breast exam but she sent me for an ultrasound – just to be doubly sure. I can honestly say that my doctor’s decision to do that saved my life.
Focus and inspiration
During my very first chemotherapy treatment, I saw a poster for the 2008 Tri Pink on the notice board. I remember thinking to myself ‘how good that would be… to be able to do that?!’ and the tri became my focus and inspiration every visit.
Once I’d made it through the first stage of chemotherapy, I joined a gym. In May I entered the 8km Mother’s Day Classic walk. After completing the walk I was so proud of my achievement and felt great. This strengthened my determination through the next 12 weeks of Taxol treatment. Leading up to Tri Pink 2008 a few friends entered as a group in Event 2 (200m swim, 6km bike, 2km run). I set my target and started training for Event 1 (100m swim, 3km bike, 1km run).
We trained Saturday morning at Mick Ferris’s “FINSS Swim School “. Mick is a very experienced tri-athlete himself and has been amazing, sharing his expertise and encouragement. I don’t think I could have done it without his support. So this is how the Pink Finss began. There were just 9 of us that first year, almost 40 in 2009 and it just kept growing. Once we had such a big following we started to raise money at each triathlon which we would put towards breast cancer research. This gave everyone involved a sense of purpose and like they were doing their bit in the fight against breast cancer.
I was still having treatment of Herceptin and with my husband’s love and support we juggled family commitments and a busy training schedule. My training during the week was a combination of running, swimming and bike riding, and on Saturday mornings Mick incorporated all three. With only weeks to go I felt that I was fit enough physically and emotionally to join my friends in Event 2. Tri Pink 08 left me such a feeling of euphoria; it inspired me and gave me the enthusiasm and confidence to enter other triathlons.
My inner faith and strength increased and confirmed that I can do anything I set my mind to. Keeping fit and healthy is a major part of my life now and I feel exercising has personally helped me to recover. I finished cancer treatment in April 09 but had to wait until 2012 to receive the all clear.
Looking to the future
In April 2010 I went back in to the hospital to have my other breast removed and begin my breast reconstruction. With the type of breast cancer I had been diagnosed with I was told in 10 years the chance of developing cancer in the second breast is said to be 10% more than normal, but to me that is 10 times too high. It was a very difficult and personal choice, one not everyone understands. But I know it was the right one for me and my family.
I recently celebrated my 10 Year Anniversary from diagnosis. While that may sound a bit strange, for those of us lucky enough to reach our 10 year anniversary, the likelihood of the cancer returning is greatly reduced. And while it was great to get the all clear from my Doctor and reach this milestone, I will continue with my regular check-ups and exercise.
I am sure you can appreciate just how hard it can be to keep the negative thoughts at bay throughout this whole ordeal. What works for me is to set myself goals, they keep me thinking positively and looking forward to life. Setting up this charity is something I have wanted to do for a while and it enables me to help others going through a similar journey, which is what I love. The Hawkesbury is such an amazing place to live. While we have the room to be able to spread out a bit here, I love the way everyone comes together to help out if someone needs it.
It is this spirit that has made the Pink Finss Charity the success that it is, and I know we will continue to grow because the Community has become some an integral part to what it is we do.