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Breast cancer is not a single disease. There are different shades of pink.

Melissa and her mother.

Melissa is one of four Australians who have shared their “shade of pink” in a new documentary (“Shades of Pink”) produced by the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF). These five stories are told in their own words, and the words of their families. They are moving, inspiring, revealing and above all, deeply human. Their perspectives are rarely heard.

For more information about “Shades of Pink” or to share your “shade of pink” visit the NBCF website www.nbcf.org.au

Click through to watch Shades of Pink.

By MELISSA

At 28 I was busy criss-crossing the globe working as a long-haul flight attendant. I was seeing all the places I had dreamed of as a little girl and enjoying a fast-paced life with friends and family, free from cares and “real” responsibilities.  A cancer diagnosis was the last thing on my mind.

In October 2010, things changed. I was taken on an unexpected and very unwelcome journey.

It was late at night and I’d just returned home from dinner at my mum’s place. I was just about to jump into the shower when I felt an immense pain in my right breast. As I felt my breast, I found a rock hard lump the size of a golf ball. Looking back, I immediately knew it was cancer but trying to be positive, I hoped it was just a cyst.

The next morning I made an appointment with my General Practitioner. She reassured me because of my age that it was likely to be a cyst but sent me off for an ultrasound and biopsy to be sure. I headed off to work and continued life “business as usual”.

The day I received my results I had just returned from a flight from Los Angles. Convinced it was just a cyst, I went to the appointment by myself. The GP started reading out the report and as I heard the words “invasive ductal carcinoma”, I burst into tears.

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The initial weeks following my diagnosis were the hardest. Treatment moved very quickly and there were some big decisions to make.

To watch “Shades of Pink” tune in to Network Ten on 1 March at 3pm.

I had dreamed of a family of my own but as a 28 year-old single woman it hadn’t been high on the “to-do” list. But the prospect that treatment could put me into a false menopause and not having family of my own was almost unfathomable.

After some sleepless nights I decided to go ahead with IVF and to do an egg collection – I now have 31 eggs. This was followed by two operations, 11 rounds of chemotherapy and 30 sessions of radiotherapy.

I needed to make my health a priority so I took 15-months off work. But I knew in-between the treatment and dealing with the side effects I’d need something to keep me busy. I’d always loved getting dressed up for the races and started making my own fascinators in my twenties so I decided to focus my attention on millinery. When I’m sewing I am too busy to think about anything else.

Towards the end of my treatment we were hit by another blow. My mum, my best friend, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Hearing that she had cancer was much more difficult than it was to hear about myself. Mum and I switched chairs. I went from being the patient to becoming her chemo buddy and carer.

Mum and I are now both in remission. We can’t ever be sure that our cancers won’t return. I feel in my heart that it will never come back. But if it does, it will potentially be fatal.

Breast cancer is not a single disease. There are many different forms and many different “shades of pink”. We just have to enjoy every day and research will ultimately find a cure and save lives.

NBCF is the leading community-funded organisation in Australia raising money for research into the prevention and cure of breast cancer. Since NBCF was established in 1994, more than $105 million has been awarded to fund over 370 Australian-based research projects to improve the health and wellbeing of those affected by breast cancer. For more information visit nbcf.org.au

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