Ana, a 49-year-old mother of three and early childhood teacher from Mangere, was diagnosed with early breast cancer last year. Now she’s urging Pasifika women not to be afraid or embarrassed about getting their breasts checked.
Last year, around September, I went for my mammogram. Afterwards I got a call saying they could see something tiny in my right breast so I went in for another mammogram and scans. When the results came back they told me there was breast cancer the size of a tiny grain of sand in my milk duct.
I was shocked when they said it was cancer because I have no family history of it. They told me I needed to have my breast removed. When I went home to discuss this with my family, we all agreed that I should have the surgery. For the sake of my children, my family and myself, we decided I had to go ahead with it.
On 12 November I had my mastectomy. I told my family I didn’t want them there. I wanted to be strong but knew I wouldn’t have been able to if they were there, I couldn’t look at them. So, my husband dropped me off and there were tears. But they were tears of happiness because having the surgery meant I just needed to have the cancer removed and then I would be okay.
I had the mastectomy on a Thursday and on Friday I was up out of bed and walking around. Everyone was shocked. I had told myself I wasn’t sick so I didn’t need to lie in bed and think about it. I just needed to get up and deal with it, that’s life.
After two weeks I saw my surgeon and she was happy with the result. I didn’t need radiation or chemotherapy, I was given the all clear. My family and I were so excited, we had a big dinner to celebrate. Now I’m back to work and carrying on with my life as normal.
I’m feeling very positive about the future. Losing one breast doesn’t mean I’ll put anything in my life off. I’m working, doing the housework, driving, shopping, going out with friends. I have changed my eating habits to be healthier and feel younger. But other than that, I’m still living my life just the same as I was before.
It was scary at first to think about the word cancer and what it means. But I knew that if I started to think about dying then I would go downhill quickly. I put it down as something normal, like getting the flu. It’s common and it can happen to anyone. I think that’s why I healed so quickly – because I made sure not to stress too much about it. I knew I had to keep moving and enjoying life.
When I turned 45 and my doctor contacted me about mammograms, I went straight away. I know many women are scared about going, but you must go and get checked. By going for regular mammograms, if you do have breast cancer then you’ll get the chance to know earlier. There will be a solution for you and there are people out there to help you.
Us Pasifika ladies are very shy and we don’t like to undress in front of people. But I think we have to get over that because dealing with your life is too important to be shy or afraid. We need to do this for ourselves and for our families.