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Dealt a difficult hand


Life has been anything but smooth sailing for Masterton’s Jaqueline Lumsden.

When she was 19 her mother died, she lost her sister to suicide in 2003, and her 16-year-old son was killed in a car crash in 2006.

To top it all off, she was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.

But each setback has made her stronger, and more determined to help others in the community.

Jaqueline, also known as Jaqs has been a quit smoking coach at Whaiora in Masterton for the past 13 years.

With the Mobile Breastscreen Unit currently based at Whaiora, Jaqs came forward to share her cancer journey with the Wairarapa Midweek.

In November 2015, Jaqs had a mammogram which came back clear, but within months, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“January 4 – I remember the day clearly – I found what looked like a dimple or a bruise.

“It was Christmas Holidays, so on January 11 I went to my GP and she said, well, you’ve had a mammogram, but for safe measure, keep an eye on it and see what happens.”

In March 2016, a radiologist at Upper Hutt advised Jaqs to go for a biopsy – “she just had a hunch”.

“April 7, my whole world changed. I got told I had cancer.

“You spend your whole life dreading the words, ‘you’ve got cancer’.

“When I got told though, it wasn’t too bad, it was more a shock.

“I thought, oh my gosh, I’ve got cancer, now what?”

It was May 12 when both of Jaqs’ breasts were removed in surgery.

“May 12 is my birthday so I just said to myself, oh well, I’m going to get a boob job on my birthday, and I turned it around.

“It was going to be lifesaving and I would be born again.”

Jaqs, who previously measured up as a 38DD, said she didn’t mind having her breasts removed if it meant she would no longer have cancer.

She opted to not have reconstructive surgery.

“I have the most beautiful scars. I’m proud of my scars – they’re my souvenirs.

“My breasts do not define me as a woman, I define me as a woman.”

She said the hardest part of her cancer journey was telling people she had been diagnosed.

“The first people I told, they burst into tears and looked at me as if I was a walking corpse.

“I thought, this is going to be hard telling the next 300 people.

“So, I wrote on Facebook, ‘The hardest part about being diagnosed with cancer is telling people. They cry, I cry, we all cry. So, you’ve all been told’.”

Jaqs said in some ways it “made sense” that she would be diagnosed with cancer.

“I looked at my life and looked at how much stress I had had in my life and stuff, and thought, of course I was going to have cancer – it is caused by just one cell going rogue.”

After the surgery came radiation therapy, and during this time Jaqs said she treated her cancer, “like it was the flu”, coming to work as much as she could to feel some sense of normality.

“Cancer is part of my journey, but I didn’t want it to define me.”

Jaqs’ advice to Wairarapa people was to continue checking their breasts for changes.

“Even if you have had a mammogram, put it in the diary, once a month check your breasts… It’s curable if you catch it early.”

Jaqs said her journey has made her “pretty fearless now”.

“I used to think I had infinite time with the mentality of, I’ll get around to it, or, one of these days I’ll do it.

“Now, I realise you may have an end date. Don’t put things off, don’t wait until you get cancer.

“Enjoy each day, live for today and make it the best day ever.”

She said her faith in God had been her “backbone” over the years – “I know I’m not alone.”

She also wanted to thank Whaiora, the Wairarapa Cancer Society, and the Wairarapa District Health Board for their ongoing support.

“I’m not here to inspire anyone, but if I do, that’s great,” she said.

“I have to inspire myself.

“What do I want to be moving ahead?

“I want to be a life coach, not just for cancer people, but people who have been dealt a very difficult hand.

“Let’s work our way around it.”


  • Jaqs has set up a Facebook page for fellow cancer sufferers called YayaSistaz which she has invited people to join.


  • The Mobile Breastscreen Unit will be based at Whaiora until November 9. It is the outreach service offered through Breastscreen Aotearoa – New Zealand’s free national Breastscreening programme for women aged between 45 and 69. The Freephone number is 0800 270 200.


  1. Wow such a strong positive person you are, and you were the one who gave me that extra will to kick my bad habit, I hope your journey brings you the happiness you deserve

  2. Chea mum you are a trooper alright, even made the paper, I’m proud to call you my mother, I love you to the stars and back

Comments are closed.

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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