'Self check’s saved my life' - Shona's story

Cancer survivor Shona was fundraising for Relay for Life in June 2016 when she found a lump in her breast.

Although annual mammograms were routine for Shona, she also knew how important it was to regularly self-check her breast for lumps and changes in appearance.

After a visit to the GP, a week later Shona was diagnosed with breast cancer at the Manukau SuperClinic.

Her diagnosis led to a year and a half of treatment including the removal of both her breasts, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Although cancer affected Shona's physical health, it impacted her mentally too. Shona says expressing these feelings is an important part of looking after your mental wellbeing and can also help others understand what you need and how they can help.

"When you go through cancer- it can be a lonely journey. Sometimes you don't want to burden your family with how you feel. Cancer also affects your loved ones and you feel bad about that too.

"Use the support services out there, especially if you are going through it alone. If you can't find a local support group – make your own one.

"One outlet I found worked for me was social media. If I couldn't sleep or felt awful, I would put a story up on my social. The comments and support of friends and family were really helpful."

Shona is one of eight sisters in her family, three being cancer survivors themselves.

"I was very lucky to have a tight-knit family with a close bond to get me through it," says Shona.

After her courageous battle, Shona wants to help others going through the same thing.

Shona took part in the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation's 2017 awareness campaign 'baring all' to support the cause.

She also recently donated artwork to the Lymphedema treatment unit at Middlemore Hospital and regularly organises and supports fundraisers to help support cancer services. The last trivia night fundraising event raised over $9000 for the community.

Shona is now cancer-free. When asked how she feels now, she replies happily, "Fabulous!"

After her experience, she wants to help others. "You don't realise how many people out there have cancer until you go through it yourself," says Shona.

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