real life

'At 70, I dyed my hair bright pink. Now I believe I can achieve anything.'

Have you ever had one of those moments when you’ve done something so out of character that you even surprised yourself?

On August 22, 2013. I went out and bought a dog.

So far, so normal. But we already had a dog – a German Spitz called Gizmo. He had been with us for over 4 years.

The dog looked like this. So, very cute.

And we lived in a rental property.

The moment I saw Cici's big black eyes, I fell in love with her. She cost $300.  I’ll never forget the look on my husband’s face when I walked in the door. He turned white, I thought he was going to have a heart attack. I told him, please just trust me, I don’t know why I need her, I just do.

"I had to have CiCi."

CiCi and I became mother and daughter. She would not leave my side and I adored her.

Two months later I was sitting on the lounge watching television with my husband and son. It was a very hot day. I subconsciously rubbed my hand across the top of my chest. Was that a lump I felt? I asked my husband to check.

Yes, it was.

I made an appointment with my doctor the next day. I wasn't concerned - I my yearly mammograms were always clear. My doctor checked it and sent me for a biopsy.

The day I was due to get the results, I was in the doctor’s surgery. It was November 4, 2013. The television was filled with news reports about Cyclone Haiyan, which had made landfall in the Philippines. It showed vision of a young woman called Golda who had lost her daughter and sister in the tidal surge that swept their home away. She looked bereft. I watched her tell her story with tears rolling down my cheeks.

When my doctor called me into her room she hugged me and told me she was so sorry to inform me I had breast cancer. She thought I was crying for fear of bad news.

Some of the damage from Cyclone Haiyan.

I told her no, I have just seen something on the news that has made me feel so sad.

Honestly, when she told me I had breast cancer and needed to have a bilateral mastectomy, I didn't react at all. All I could think of was how this poor Golda had lost her little daughter Angel, and her sister. I drove home thinking, how can I help her? When I got home and told my family I needed to have urgent surgery, they were very upset. But all I could say to them was “but what about this poor girl? We need to find her and help her".

Golda and her little girl, Angel.

I opened my computer and started searching and through some vision Golda had done for CNN, I was able to track her down. She was overwhelmed someone on the other side of the world knew about her story and was willing to help her.

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I went to bed cuddling my little CiCi and I told her, “my darling girl, we are in for the ride of our life, I think I’m going to need you”.

Two weeks later I was off to hospital for my operation. I decided to start a diary and chronicle my journey.

Watch this beautiful video, the "I Touch Myself Project" to raise awareness for breast cancer. (Post continues after video).

"The time has come for me to be rendered 'breast-less'.

"I’m fairly blasé about it; it’s not as if I’m getting an arm or a leg chopped off, it’s only my boobs. It will be a walk in the park for the surgeons because there is not all that much there for them to cut off. I am sure it will be all over and done within the time it would take them to have a coffee break."

The previous week I had a call from a friend of mine who suggested I contact a healer who might be able to help me. I was open to any suggestion, so I called him. He said he could reduce my tumours in a one-hour consultation. I told him I was having surgery on the following Tuesday, so he offered me an appointment the Friday prior. Could I bring $400 cash?

I couldn’t help but think, why would I pay $400 to reduce the tumours when Queensland Health had offered to not only reduce them, but cut off my entire breasts free of charge?

I wondered what it would feel like to be 'breast-less'. I was about 15 years old when I last felt like that. I was a late developer and I hadn’t developed all that much more since. I hoped not only would I look like a 15 year old, but feel like one too. I mean, it’s not as if they were any good to me anymore. I had no plans to breast feeding anyone. They did serve me well when I breast fed our 2 boys, but that was more than 40 years ago. At 70 years old, really, who needed them?

And I never really had a cleavage so to speak. I had gone bra-less for the past 30 years.

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Scroll through to see these incredible breast cancer survivors. (Post continues after gallery).

As I was laying on the trolley ready to be wheeled into surgery, I was very calm. I felt my mother take a hold of my hand. It felt so unbelievably real. I felt tears roll down my face. My beautiful mum was with me. I had missed her every day since she died.

It took me a couple of weeks to heal but I soon got used to having no boobs. It was then onto chemo. I was so sick and was hospitalised twice. Each time, I'd go home and retreat to my bed with little CiCi, who never left my side. She was able to put a smile on my face every day, no matter how bad I felt.

Nola and her son. He helped shave off her hair.

I was mortified at the thought of my long blonde hair falling out, so I decided to have a head shave party. I got all my friends to sponsor me so I could raise some money to help Golda in the Philippines to rebuild her family home. I set up a GoFundMe account with the goal to raise $2000. Happily, I raised more than that.

My favourite colour is pink, so I decided I was going to walk my walk with pink hair.

Look at Nola's incredible pink hair. You'll love it. (Post continues after gallery).

I went to a wig shop and tried on a bright pink wig that cost $30. The assistant said it looked great, then asked me when the fancy dress party was? With a smile on my face I told her I was going to a cocktail party at the oncology lounge at the hospital. She advised me the wig wouldn't last very long. I told her I wasn’t planning on wearing it very long! I think she thought I was very strange.

I loved my pink wig. Everyone else having chemo loved it too. They all looked forward to my visits to see what I was wearing. When my hair started growing back, it was grey. I’m sure I thought it would grow back blonde, but it didn’t. It was then I decided to dye it pink.

Nola at the end of her chemotherapy.

I was not ready for grey hair. I bought a tube of Paint Box in Fuschia and I put it on with a toothbrush.

I still feel so empowered. It’s so totally who I am. I don’t care what anyone thinks, I think it looks sensational.

Seriously anyone who can wear pink hair at 70 can achieve anything. I have, and I will continue to, follow my goals and many dreams.

With CiCi by my side.

Nola with her beautiful, pink hair.

Have you, or do you know anyone who has experiences from cancer? We'd love to hear them.

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