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'Why I banned my mum from seeing me during cancer treatment, even though she begged me.'

If being diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer at the age of 27 wasn’t hard enough, imagine being diagnosed whilst living in a new state, far from the comforts of my home.

It was strange. I remember thinking back then that all I wanted to do was move back home to Adelaide and have the support of my family and friends as I faced having to go through seven months of chemo and a double mastectomy.

But then, I became so conflicted because I also didn’t want to give instant power to the disease. I felt if I moved away from my ‘new life’ in Melbourne then I had already started to give in to the cancer. Being completely stubborn by nature, I dug my heels in, held my head high and was committed to ‘getting on with life’.

When my treatment started, it was really difficult.

I remember catching the tram to work alone and having so many people staring at me as I sat their with my bald head. I would work, then head to the hospital for chemo, then head back to work. I was surrounded by an incredible team of colleagues but I didn’t want to burden them with my insecurities, or have them seeing me flat and weak and feeling pity for me.

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Video by MMC

I tried to keep life as normal as I could and I did that so I wouldn’t have to focus on what was trying to kill me, literally. I didn’t want to accept the fact that I didn’t have my mum, my dad or my best friends their holding my hand telling me everything was going to be OK.

In a way, I wanted it that way. The less I saw those close to me hurting because of what I was going through, the easier it became. My mum would beg me to allow her to come and be by my side but after seeing her at one chemo session, I could tell she was struggling to keep her brave face on.

I could tell all she could see was her little girl, looking frail and fighting to survive. So I banned her from coming back until I finished my treatment. It was easier that way for me.

Sure, there were times when my best friend Adie would come up from Adelaide and I’d allow myself to be vulnerable, but it was rare. I found most of the time, I was trying to convince myself and everyone around me that I was strong as hell.

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When I finally finished my chemo, I was asked by the National Breast Cancer Foundation to partake in a speakers bureau training session in Sydney that would allow me to then be able to share my story with others in a public forum by speaking at events on their behalf.

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It was there that I was fortunate to have met Krystal Barter. I remember instantly connecting with her given we were the youngest in the room. Our stories were different, yet so much the same, we were both doing what we could to survive; I was going through breast cancer and she was taking extreme preventative measures like a double mastectomy so she didn’t have to go through what she witnessed her grandmother and mother had gone through.

Through the years we have always remained friends, we have seen each other get married, have babies, travel, start successful businesses, go through our surgeries and so on. We’re at the forefront of each others minds, we tag each other as soon as we read a new article about breast cancer research or some other inspiring story about another survivor and she’s one of the first people I’ve confided in when I thought my cancer had come back.

Even now, with Krystal having an incredible charitable organisation that she has founded, Pink Hope, we’ve partnered with my business Frankie Peach donating $1 from every scarf sold to her organisation.

Now, as I approach my 10-year remission mark, it’s friendships like this that were formed through hardship, yet strengthened by our resilient and positive natures, that are one of the many blessings a diagnosis can bring.

People often ask if I had my time over would I do things differently. Would I prefer to have been home in Adelaide during that time .

To be honest, my answer is always no.

Living interstate and going through it all pretty much alone is what allowed me to grow, it allowed me to prove to myself just how strong and resilient I was.

The biggest lesson I learnt and what I always tell anyone going through the same thing is, during this journey, no matter how much support you have, the number one thing you need to focus on is your own mindset.

You will talk to yourself more than ever during this period, so be kind with your thoughts. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, pep yourself up when you need too and when things get tough, tell yourself, YOU’VE GOT THIS!

To find out more about breast cancer and to seek support, visit pinkhope.org.au.

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