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"Nine weeks before my wedding, I was diagnosed with breast cancer."

Alexandra Stewart

By ALEXANDRA STEWART

In 2005, nine weeks before my wedding, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Five years later, I was still taking tablets to treat it.

Since my diagnosis, I have waxed and waned when it came to being involved in anything to do with cancer. At times, I wanted to throw myself wholeheartedly into breast cancer awareness and support, and at other times I wanted to just relegate it all to my past.

Until the day I found myself standing in a pink poncho on the MCG.

I am not really sure how I came to find out about the Field of Women in 2010. I am sure that my partner and I didn’t discuss going with anyone else. But the allure of a pink poncho was too much for me. My husband sported a pink poncho too. We had absolutely no expectations and just thought we may even stay for the football match afterwards.

We fronted up early on the day, I don’t like being late, and collected our pink Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) backpacks, and filed into the lower stands of the MCG. Being among the first to arrive, we sat in the stands and thought we would take some photographs to mark the occasion. Not knowing anyone, the photographs of ourselves together had to be ‘selfies’ and we kept to ourselves.

I was still uneasy talking to others who had or have had breast cancer, but as I turned around to see the stadium filling up, I immediately choked up. I’m choking up recalling it now. Where was this coming from … this emotion? Why now? The number of people with breast cancer, the number of survivors and the number of supporters was overwhelming. It was dawning on me the gravity of what I had become unwittingly involved in by having breast cancer. I wept in my husband’s embrace.

Field of Women in 2010.

There were so many women (and men) who have had to endure the worst possible life experience, and I felt a connection with these strangers. Some were laughing and smiling with friends and family, some were sitting like us as a couple, looking scared and not daring to strike up a conversation with anyone else. Many were having a bit of a cry.

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Then Jim Stynes came along. There was a buzz in the stands – everyone stood up and applauded. It was a spontaneous acknowledgement of a shared experience. Jim walked along in front of us all, his arms raised above his head, applauding us. Applauding us! Why? He thought we were brave. He understood what each of us was going through – cancer patient, family and friends. I was in tears when I faced my husband. He held me tight and let me cry.

Actually walking onto the grass of the MCG was amazing. How special were we? When the BCNA pink lady was full, the lights went out. We started our pink torches and looked at the most awe-inspiring image on the big screen – a sparkling pink lady. It was an amazing, powerful, unforgettable experience. I no longer felt alone.

This is what women can accomplish when they work toegether.

My husband and I are going to stand again as part of the Field of Women this Saturday 10 May. We are going for me and for us. We are going for every other person there, to maybe even help them through the experience. We are going with 18 survivors and friends as a group and then meeting up with other groups. When it comes down to it, we are a sisterhood (and brotherhood), a shared experience. It took attending the Field of Women in 2010 for me to realise and embrace that.

Alexandra Stewart, 44, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 just nine weeks before her wedding and aged just 35. In 2010, she took part in the Field of Women on the MCG to pay tribute to those affected by breast cancer. Next Saturday 10 May she will again join 15,000 others on the MCG to represent the number of Australians who will be diagnosed this year alone. 

Tickets are still available for Field of Women at the MCG, Melbourne on Saturday 10 May from 4:30pm. Visit www.fieldofwomen.org.au

Those unable to attend are still encouraged to show their support by donating via the Shout App. Download the Shout App free from the App Store Google Play and donate to Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA).

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