Gaining cancer insight through illness
"I never thought it could be me."
These thoughts ran through Lara Winders' mind at the inaugural WHK Cancer Society Gala Ball last year.
"I thought those people, those families, this is a good cause but it will never affect me," she said.
This year Mrs Winders will attend the gala ball knowing just how important the Cancer Society is for patients and their family.
Just before Christmas, she felt her first lump and was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"I could hardly believe it, I didn't fit what I thought was the criteria; I was always so active and never sick, I never smoked."
In January she started radiation therapy treatment in Dunedin and finished last month.
She does not yet know if she has to return for more treatment.
"I am still on the road but right now I feel great. The Cancer Society have been here for me right from the start. They have helped me deal with the diagnosis, get the right treatment and support and sort out all paper work you never think about."
One of the key support systems was Kowhai House in Dunedin.
Opened by the Cancer Society in 1989, it was a "home away from home" at no cost for people who require treatment away from home, at the oncology department of Dunedin Hospital.
She met people going through the same illness and was surprised how relaxed they were.
"It's a positive environment, with no excess worrying about life. Everyone just gets on with every day living," she said.
Cancer was a chronic illness and patients were in it for the long haul, so she recommended patients and family members contact the Cancer Society for support. "Your family can only do so much but they also need reassurance, a break and support."
Mrs Winders' husband Jeremy, a former Southland rugby player, usually shied away from functions, but would join her at the ball. This year they would celebrate with the Cancer Society and stay positive on their journey.
"We all know someone affected by cancer. I never imagined it would be me but I know the Cancer Society has my back," she said.
This year's ball will be held at the Ascot Park Hotel on June 22.
Ball organising committee member Gus Johnson said the tickets had sold out and he urged the 350 guests to dress to the nines and unleash their glamorous sides.
The Southland Times