Cancer survivor fit and healthy
It was woman's instinct that saw Rose Wharepapa detect breast cancer early.
The 50-year-old personal trainer was fit, healthy and had no signs or symptoms suggesting something wasn't right.
"I was training someone about my age who had breast cancer and I just had a feeling I had cancer.
"I went to my doctor and said: ‘I don't know why but I want a mammogram'," she says.
Today marks the beginning of the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation's annual Pink Ribbon Street Appeal.
It aims to raise funds for research into new targeted treatments, life-saving awareness and education programmes and support for women going through breast cancer.
Ms Wharepapa was 43 at the time of detection so didn't qualify for free mammograms which start for women at 45 years of age.
She had to pay $180 to get checked and a biopsy revealed she had grade three ductal carcinoma in situ.
The aggressive form of cancer were in the cells of her right breast.
The mother of two and stepmother to three children says it was hard coming to terms with the news.
"When you hear the word cancer, nothing else the doctor says makes sense.
"I kept thinking ‘what about the kids and my family'," she says.
Ms Wharepapa underwent reconstruction surgery to have both breasts removed and now has regular doctor visits for general checkups.
The New Lynn resident encourages other women to listen to their bodies.
"A woman's instinct is very strong and if we feel something's not right we need to follow our instinct.
"Mammograms do save lives and one in nine women will be diagnosed in their lifetime. If it hasn't touched your life it will eventually," she says.
New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation chief executive Van Henderson says it's the generosity of Kiwis that makes the organisation's work possible and stresses the importance of getting checked.
"Women should be breast aware from 20 and should begin regular mammograms at age 40," she says.
Volunteers will be collecting along West Auckland streets and in shopping malls today and tomorrow.
Visit nzbcf.org.nz for more information.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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