Welcome to the first edition of “Breast Cancer Stories”. Breast Cancer is a serious disease and it affects millions of people and their loved ones each year. Fundraising events have been established to help raise awareness and much needed funds for research over the years. One such organisation that does this is The National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF), which is Australia’s leading national body. They fund world-class, game-changing breast cancer research.
At Vivid Photography and Imaging we have jumped on board with The National Breast Cancer Foundation, to produce a glamorous book showcasing women who have either had breast cancer or have supported loved ones during their time of need.
Wynette Monserrat’s is just one of the ladies who has taken part and has shared how her Breast Cancer Stories and how breast cancer irrevocably altered her life.
Some of these questions might have been hard for her to answer but we are sure they will help other women with what they are going through. We asked Wynette to answer from her heart and tell us about her Breast Cancer Stories.
Breast Cancer Stories: Tell us your story
I am a dragon boat paddler and cancer exercise specialist, and it was my diagnosis of breast cancer that led me on this path.
After my diagnosis 8 years ago, I joined the Pittwater Pinks breast cancer survivor dragon boat team to see if I’d like paddling and to my surprise, I loved it. I loved the training both on and off the water and I especially loved the community of wonderful people that I met. Paddling also opened a world of possibilities to travel and achieve. Some of my favourite travel memories include paddling 55Km on the Ord River in WA, paddling with other breast cancer survivors on the Arno in Italy and competing on the Tisza in Hungary. I am now the Pinks team manager and coach, and a Director on the board of Dragon Boat NSW.
I’m passionate about the great benefits of exercise for cancer survivors and the “exercise is medicine” initiative so when I had the opportunity to make exercise my career as well as my hobby, I became a cancer exercise specialist to help others to be fit and well too.
Tell us how did you came to find out you had breast cancer?
I was working for a company that manufactured mammography equipment and after looking at the mammography brochures every day at work, I decided that I should visit BreastScreen for a routine mammogram. I’d had a clear mammogram a few years earlier and I thought this one would be clear too. It wasn’t and I was called in to BreastScreen for further tests and a biopsy of the very small lump that they had found.
Tell us about the ACTUAL day you were officially diagnosed with breast Cancer?
After my biopsy which was on a Friday, I was told to come back on the Monday for the results and they asked me to bring someone with me. I was very scared but the BreastScreen team were very calming. On the Monday, my beautiful partner Ross accompanied me, and we were taken into a room where they told us that the lump was invasive cancer. I was stunned and they left the room to give us some time together. They also offered to ring my GP to let him know of the diagnosis which I greatly appreciated. Ross and I went for a cup of tea and a bite to eat and I spent the rest of the day in a haze.
What treatments did you do?
I had a lumpectomy and axillary lymph node dissection. Although the cancer was small, only about 1cm, some of the cancer cells had started to spread to my lymph nodes and 5 were removed. Part of the tumour was sent off for Oncotype testing to see whether I would need chemotherapy and fortunately in my case I didn’t need that. I then had radiation treatment and afterwards started hormonal therapy which I am still on today.
Tell us about your hardest day?
Waiting for my initial results was very scary but I think the hardest day was my checkup after surgery when the surgeon said that the radiographer wanted to have another look at my scans. I put this out of my mind until the next day when I got a call from the hospital to come in later that day for another mammogram and ultrasound. I had a little meltdown as I was scared that I would need more surgery on the other breast. The scans were clear but it gave me some insight into how terrible it must be for those who are told that their cancer has returned.
Who were the people around you that you felt supported you the most?
Everyone who knew about my cancer was supportive. However, a special thanks to my wonderful partner Ross who joined me on daily walks, was patient and caring and cooked and cleaned and made it all as easy for me as possible. He even planned a weekend trip to Brisbane as a little break during my treatment. Also a big thanks to my friend Robyn who took me to belly dancing lessons during treatment and although I’m not a belly dancer now it certainly gave us a fun time.
Tell us about the day you were cancer free?
I consider the day that I was cancer free as the day my last radiation treatment was over. After just over 6 weeks of weekday visits for treatment, I had reached the final one and I was just so happy. I bought some little cakes for the radiology team as a thank you.
Did you do anything to celebrate after being cancer free?
I was tired after my treatment and although I’d never been a runner I decided to take up running as my way of celebrating. My friend Robyn and I started running around the local oval and it was just wonderful to be outside and moving.
What would you say to anyone who is just starting the breast cancer journey?
Firstly, (((hugs))), I am sorry to hear of your diagnosis. Just take one day at a time. Don’t worry about what’s next just focus on what you have to do now and you will eventually get to the end of your treatment.
How has the photography session with Murielle Sassine helped with your self-esteem?
Murielle’s photography session made me feel glamorous and special. It was wonderful to dress up and look like someone from a magazine.
Breast Cancer Stories: How is life now that you are cancer free? Do you feel approach life differently now?
My life after cancer has changed for the better. It has expanded in experiences and friends and my personal compassion for others.
I now see life as something to be fully immersed in and I intend to stay fit and healthy so I can enjoy to the max.
Each and every woman that has come face to face with this disease has Breast Cancer Stories to share and by being a part of this journey with them we hope to bring light and hope to anyone else going through their own journey. As Olivia Newton-John has said “Fight each round and take it on the chin. And never never never ever give in.”