I’ve written this post in support of Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA). BCNA is the peak national organisation for Australians affected by breast cancer, and consists of a network of more than 110,000 members and 300 member groups. When I was diagnosed, BCNA provided me with so much support via resources, information and understanding. It’s wonderful to have a chance to shine al light on the work BCNA does.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month in Australia, and also the month in which I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. Within a week of my surgery, I had been contacted by the BCNA who sent me one of their amazing My Journey Kits, and information about how to join their online forums. It was then I started to realise that I wasn’t alone, and that this amazing group would be with me, whenever I needed them, every step of the way.
The risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer is 1 in 8 for women in Australia. It is estimated that in 2016, 15,934 women and 150 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Approximately 43 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia every day this year. The statistics are frightening. Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting Australian women. But the numbers don’t tell the story. Each of us with such a diagnosis is an individual. We are mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, friends. We are professionals, carers, sporty types, brainiacs, crafters. We speak English, other languages, do sign language. We walk, we run, we hike, we wheel. Our experience of cancer will vary, but we are tied together by a common thread: breast cancer does not discriminate. There are so many women with so many stories. We are 1 in 8, but not just 1 in 8.
As I sat in my oncologist’s office yesterday waiting to get the results of my mammogram and ultrasound, I tried to focus on not being just 1 in 8 – I reminded myself that I am not, and have never been, just the sum of my statistics. And true to my form thus far, despite being given a 50% chance of not being alive at this point in time, I was given the all clear for another year.
This past month I was also asked to speak (in a pre-recorded video) as part of a symposium called Empowering Women Through Adversity. At first I was a bit taken aback by being asked – after all, I am just a middle-aged, part-time blogger who swears too much – and I was being asked to speak alongside the Executive Director, UN Women and the Director, National Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security, Office of the Chief of the Defence Force! I mean seriously, what the actual fuck?! And then I remembered. Four years ago I felt powerless. Stricken with fear, grief and pain. Lost and broken, crying every night after I put my four year old to bed – big, fat, anguished tears as I felt my grip on my world slipping away. But I gradually got it back, grasped the remaining shards of my life in my distinctly unfeminine man hands and stuck them back together as best I could. I reinvented the bits of my life that were beyond repair, and accepted that other bits were neither reparable nor replaceable. Without even realising it, I had empowered myself through my own adversity.
Here’s me, talking about being not just 1 in 8: