My little family immigrated to Australia five years ago from Johannesburg. My husband, two beautiful girls – aged 8 and 7 – and I love our life in Sydney and we spend our time exploring its beaches, restaurants, museums and cafes. We enjoy a healthy, outdoor lifestyle as much as possible.
When my doctor discovered a lump during a routine yearly check-up, it was the last thing I had expected. I had a good fitness regime, I was feeling really healthy and was getting stronger and fitter – I never got sick. An ultrasound led to a mammogram, which led to a biopsy, which came back as a cancer diagnosis. I was shocked and scared – how could I have breast cancer at 34 years of age? With no family history?
I had surgery and it was considered a success, but as my cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, I needed to undergo a course of chemotherapy. This of course meant losing my hair. My nurse suggested I attend a Look Good Feel Better workshop to help me learn some useful ways to manage the changes I was experiencing to my appearance. While I was offered practical guidance about make-up and skin care, I was really interested in mastering head coverings and found the advice on scarves and scarf styling invaluable. Mostly though, it was really beautiful to connect with other women in a similar position and I felt so encouraged by the lovely volunteers.
I am very much a changed person. I went from being an extremely energised, fit and strong independent woman to a frail, sickly, fatigued person who needed help all the time. But I try to stay positive because life happens and you’ve got to adjust and work with the direction it’s sending you in. We all chant these mantras, that whatever life throws at you, you’ve got to make the most of it. And my experience has taught me that you have to still live. You have to still find the joy in every day.