Anete

I was 35 when I found a lump in my right breast. We had just emmigrated to New Zealand and were still at the 'staying with friends' stage. I was lucky though and had found it early. I had a lumpectomy and was advised to have chemo' and radiotherapy followed by 5 years of hormones (Tamoxifen), so I did.

No one can ever prepare you for such a life changing diagnosis but I had great doctors (on the whole) and fantastic unconditional and unending support from my partner Dave, and I made some good new friends at that time. After the radio' and chemo' finished we moved to Nelson and started a new life. But nothing is ever simple and at my next mammgram more cancer was found in my other breast. I elected to have a double mastectomy with Tram Flap reconstruction. It is hard to explain how much my confidence was knocked by the second diagnosis but I eventually bounced back - it just took a lot longer than before. I looked for silver linings everywhere - the biggest one was getting a slimmed down pair of boobs that I am so happy with, a flatter tummy from the Tram Flap and a good perspective on what is important in life. I also got a tattoo! It's around my new belly button and was designed just for me with Maori designs and symbols that record my story and attitude whilst also keeping me safe. It was an emotional process but happily not painful due to damaged nerve endings in that area (see more silver linings).

I have lost friends along the way who weren't as lucky as me and I will never forget them. I have also made friends with women who have travelled the same path and survived. I paddle a Dragon Boat with 22 of them and they are all unbelievably amazing!

One reason I wanted to be part of this project was to show that there can be, not just life after Breast cancer, but fun and laughter (and red lipstick) too. I wanted to be a visible Breast Cancer survivor. I felt very alone when I was diagnosed and this is me saying you are not alone. There are lots of us out there and we are doing well. I have just celebrated my 12 year cancer free anniversary, I intend to celebrate quite a few more.

Know your breasts, Check yourself reguarly. If you are worried go and get checked early, Don't wait. Now is good.