Victoria, from Waiuku, had her last free two-yearly mammogram at age 68. “I assumed that the funding stopped [at 69] because my risk wasn’t as high,” she says. But at 70, Victoria noticed a discharge from her nipple. She knew she had to do something about it, and the BCFNZ’s October campaign about breast cancer signs and symptoms “nudged her along”.
Her concerned GP sent her straight for a mammogram – which revealed two tumours in her right breast. Victoria was diagnosed with HER2+ breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease, which required “the works” as far as treatment goes.
She had a mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy, and is now awaiting radiation. She also will take the drug Herceptin for a year.
Like most people, she has found the chemotherapy cycles have unpleasant side effects, and she’s lost most of her hair. “It’s just a bit of fuzz now,” she says. But overall, she’s getting through her treatment well, with the support of her husband Graham.
Victoria lives an active life, enjoying crafts and excursions with the friends she’s made through her local branch of the global friendship group, the Red Hat Society. She’s now convinced of the importance of continuing with mammograms through her seventies.
“I’m getting through this, and getting on with life,” she says. Her openness in discussing her illness reflects today’s more positive attitude to life, she believes. “Back when my father had cancer, no one talked about it. I’ve been very open with my three daughters, and they’ve been very supportive.”