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Kaye’s story



Grant Harding

October is Breast Cancer Month.

More than 3300 women (and around 25 men) will have been or will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.

Pink is the colour which accompanies fundraising for the 31 days, when the need for self-checking and regular mammograms for early detection is reinforced.

So, it was appropriate that I spoke to a friend named Kaye this week. She is an artist – I’m sure she likes pink – and a breast cancer survivor.

At the age of 38, Kaye had the world at her feet – successful businesswoman, happily married to a creative free spirit with two children.

That world changed shape when she discovered a lump in her breast while relaxing, washing herself in a hot bath after celebrating her youngest daughter’s second birthday.

It was “hard and small, the size of a pea”.

Her doctor wasn’t concerned, said it was “unlikely to be cancer”, but offered a mammogram – the x-ray which detects breast cancer.

“I fitted the mammogram in a few weeks later around a busy schedule not expecting to get any results that day, let alone anything as devastating as a diagnosis of breast cancer,” Kaye says.

So, began the treatment.

A partial-mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation. New terms to describe cancer; grades, stages, carcinoma in situ, aggressiveness and also chemotherapy protocols. Doctors talking about statistics based on her individual pathology, whether there was lymph involvement, if the tumour was hormone receptive.

“I took the treatment in my stride, I was focussed on beating it and getting well,” Kaye says.

When treatment ended she thought the worst had passed, but it hadn’t.

The fear of recurrence was real. Strange pains or headaches sent her in to a panic. She became anxious and fearful.

“I would tick off the milestones… 3 months, 6 months, a year, 2 years,” she told me.

After five years Kaye was supposedly cancer free, but she was hearing stories of women who have a recurrence after 15 years.

Kaye just celebrated 20 years cancer free last month.

“The fear of recurrence diminishes,” she says, “but never really leaves you”.

Her story will resonate with many, because breast cancer is the most common cancer in New Zealand women.

Kaye wasn’t examining her breasts when she found the lump, it was good fortune – as was her referral for a mammogram.

The risk of breast cancer increases as you get older, and the Breast Cancer Foundation of New Zealand (BCFNZ) recommends mammograms every year for women aged between 40 and 49 years, every two years for women between the ages of 50 and 73, and after that in discussion with your doctor. Between the ages of 45 and 69 mammograms are free.

Women don’t need to die because of breast cancer. Early detection and treatment are life savers.

The BCFNZ catch-cry this month is, “do it for the ones you love”.

So, come on men, ask your partner today if she has checked her breasts lately, if there are any changes encourage her to visit her doctor, and make sure she has a mammogram to schedule.


  • For information and to get involved in Breast Cancer Month fundraising activities, like Pink for a Day which Wairarapa businesses and organisations could easily get involved in, go to www.breastcancerfoundation.org.nz

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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