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Survivor strides with ‘Sole Mates’

Sole Mates is one of 35 teams taking part in Relay for Life. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Breast cancer survivor Vivienne Hawken has three beads on her keyring to show the different sized lumps removed during her surgery.

The beads were a powerful reminder that regular screening could help to find cancer early, well before a change could be seen or felt.

At 69, Hawken’s last free mammogram showed a tumour sitting on the wall of her chest. A biopsy and scans found five cancers altogether.

Hawken had a mastectomy and 15 sessions of radiation. She made many trips over the Remutaka hill to see oncologists, nurse specialists, radiographers, and surgeons.

She felt blessed her cancer was detected early in a routine mammogram and that it could be treated.

“I’ve been really lucky and have come through it really well. I had one night in hospital and was back home and walking the following day,” she said.

“I want to show that if you catch it early, you can get through it really well. We all need to be vigilant in caring for our lives, and having a free mammogram is such a quick and easy way for each of us to do this.”

Hawken said it was a relief not to need chemotherapy and thought her positivity played a role in the outcome.

“I tried to stay positive. I never felt why me – I just accepted it, asked lots of questions, made notes and never let it get into my thought patterns,” she said.

“I also felt like this was something that was manageable. Because it was my breast, it felt external and could be taken off and removed.”

Hawken was a keen walker and took part in many events and challenges, including the Taranaki Off-Road, Tongariro trek, Round the Vines, park runs and half marathons.

Two days before her mastectomy, she walked the 10km Pink Ribbon Walk in Wellington. She also virtually walked the length of NZ by walking 10km every day for 18 months.

Next week, Hawken would walk with her team, ‘Sole Mates’ in Relay for Life.

“Cancer has touched all of my friends in one way or another, and they’re doing it to support me, other family members, and the work of the Breast Cancer Foundation and Cancer Society.”

During Relay for Life, Sole Mates would walk around the oval at Clareville for 18 hours, along with 35 other teams. Money raised would stay in Wairarapa to support the Cancer Society.

Hawken hoped to raise awareness by sharing her story and taking part in Relay for Life.

“I’m so lucky to be here, and if I can inspire women to go for regular checks then I will know I’ve made a difference in sharing my story.”

  • One of Wairarapa’s biggest charity events takes place at Clareville Showgrounds from March 20-21. To enter a team, phone Wairarapa Cancer Society on 06 378 8039 or apply online. Donations can be made at https://wairarapa.relayforlife.org.nz.

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