Breast Cancer Nirvana

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Dahlia FlowerA very dear friend of mine was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2007.  She went through the plethora of treatments required to give her the best shot of defeating it, which she did…until 19 April 2011 when, during her regular check up, it was discovered something wasn’t quite right…again.   Her story is such an inspiration and she has gone on to create a beautiful website dedicated to helping others going through this process (as well as their loved ones).  I interviewed Andrea to get some insight on how on earth she coped with two breast cancer diagnoses in four years…

You have been diagnosed with breast cancer twice in the past 4 years, how on earth do you deal with getting a diagnosis a second time?

Well, it was a surprise as I was feeling 100% healthy and just about to move overseas for work. I had no intuition that I was ill at the time. The annual mammogram revealed a lymph node that required exploration and so the journey began.

Firstly, a diagnosis usually occurs with a few steps so there is time to process things on the way. Secondly, I had a holiday booked so went away for a month to Wales, Ireland, England and Singapore after the biopsy; that gave me time to really think through things. I asked the Breast Surgeon to contact me while I was away with the diagnosis. They weren’t able to do that but booked me a follow up appointment with the Breast Surgeon on 9am on the day after my return. From that email, I kind of knew. Then I started to process things; I developed a chest infection, had a migraine went on a fantastic tour of Ireland with a tour group, spent time with my sister, nieces and nephew in Wales and had some luxury pampering in London with my friend Selina. I lived!

I got back to Wellington and had prepared myself for two outcomes – cancer or perhaps an inconclusive result. In my head, I planned the meeting with the Breast Surgeon and if surgery was required, I wanted a full breast reconstruction as I didn’t want just a Mastectomy. So I had my first day back at work and then went to the Hospital. As soon as the Surgeon and Nurse walked in, I knew it was cancer. I could tell by their body language. From there, I met up with a supportive friend and decided that I could do this. 

Then I prepared myself emotionally and physically for what I knew was about to come. I think that has been my secret advantage. I know how to do this as I’ve done it before. There were lessons learned from last time.

What were the lessons learned from your first cancer?

  • To put myself and my health first not second.
  • To take time off work to recover, not rush about trying to do everything.
  • Surround myself with support.
  • Do cancer my way (the treatments that I want to do for my own reasons).
  • To reduce all stressors in my life.
  • To enjoy life as much as possible during the cancer treatment.
  • Not to read too much and freak myself out.
  • Just focus on a couple of complementary therapies so there are not too many things going on.
  • To listen to my body and really rest.
  • Not to spend time with or listen to negative stories or negative people.
  • Life might be short so it’s important to do what you love now.

What would be the three key factors that have kept you strong and moving towards a healthy future, both physically and mentally?    

  • Since my breast cancer diagnosis in 2007, I have been doing EFT, a technique which transmutes emotional intensity and trauma into healing. I have had sessions with Jasmina Kovacev and through these sessions have resolved much of the trauma of diagnoses, repeated surgeries, treatments and just everything around those things. This allows me to cope well with most medical interventions when I previously had a hospital phobia!
  • I have a fantastic support network of friends and family. The first cancer kind of weeded out people who weren’t there for me. This time, I had a team of great people for appointments, pep talks and fun outings.
  • My belief in a reason and gift from having cancer. It happened twice for a reason and I am now focusing more and more on health and enjoying my life.

 What advice can you give to women when they are first diagnosed with breast cancer?

  • Get lots of support.
  • Take the time to work through the shock or grief of the diagnosis.
  • Stay positive and believe in yourself and your recovery.
  • People used to say to me “you’re so strong” and now I believe it. Cancer makes you really strong (even if you were strong before).
  • Everyone is different so do cancer your way. There are lots of decisions to make but they are yours.
  • You are important so put yourself and your health first.

You have tried alternative therapies in conjunction with conventional.  Which ones do you feel really helped.

On my first diagnosis, I was willing to try anything and I spent a lot of money, time and effort doing different things. It made me very stressed out and I’m not sure if there was much benefit. So this time, I focused on a few gentle things that suited me:

Now that I am feeling a bit better, I will consult a herbalist and a few other body therapists.

What made you decide to create Breast Cancer Nirvana?

It just kind of happened. While recovering from surgery, I had an idea to create a website that brought together all relevant breast cancer information. There are heaps of resources out there but not everything in one place. Then I read an article about Serena Star Leonard running a course on setting up a website. It felt right and once I made the decision to do the course, everything has fallen in to place. It has been my therapy and a fantastic project for me to focus on while going through cancer treatment. But now it feels more like a calling. It’s so important for women to feel supported and inspired through the breast cancer journey. Cancer is not fun but can bring about great healing and gifts.

What has having cancer taught you?

Mainly that life is short and that we are all here for a reason. Lately, I’ve been thinking that it’s time to do all the things that I have wanted to do. That book that I always wanted to write, those art classes that I always wanted to do…you get the drift.

What are five things friends and family can do to support loved ones going through a cancer journey.

1. Be guided by their loved one.

2. Be positive and keep stress away from their loved one.

3. Accompanying their loved one to medical appointments.

4. Have belief and hope that everything will be okay

5. Listen.

I have a free e-book called 10 Do’s and Don’ts for Supporting Someone with Breast Cancer: http://www.breastcancernirvana.co.nz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Thanks Paula for the opportunity to tell my story. I love your website – it is beautiful, a work of art. xx Andrea

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