Why I’m proud to be a Pink Lady

I WAS diagnosed with breast cancer during a routine mammogram in May 2004, aged 52.

I had no family history of breast cancer and no one I knew had experienced it either. My surgeon handed me a card for Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA).

As soon as I rang and spoke to someone from BCNA I knew I wasn't alone. They sent me the "My Journey Kit" and it arrived while I was still in hospital after having a single mastectomy.

I read it from cover to cover, it had great information and I immediately felt less stressed about treatment and the road ahead. I had chemotherapy followed by hormone therapy for the next five years as well as treatment for lymphoedema.

BCNA has continued to be a comfort, and was such a major support and source of information when I decided to have my other breast removed last year following chronic and excruciating back, shoulder and neck pain. I was able to contact others who had similar issues and I felt empowered.

The online service network is open 24 hours, which is vital for those who live in rural and remote areas. Many are awake in the middle of the night with questions circling in their mind, and to be able to go online and chat with another BCNA member somewhere in Australia with those same worries and concerns is very comforting.

Our support group in Launceston, where I live, has grown over the years from four people to 80. There are lots of different personalities with women aged from 22 to 85.

I have spent many hours volunteering and supporting other people with breast cancer; people think we sit around crying but we hardly ever cry, we have lots of laughs and we have great speakers.

Every person I have been in contact with over the past 14 years has only ever wanted to return to their normal lives, but we all have to accept the life ahead is 'a new normal', with some limitations, be that physical or mental. BCNA offers advice on every aspect of these challenges and for that many thousands of Australians including me are so thankful.

When a routine mammogram revealed cancer, support came from the Breast Cancer Network Australia. (Pic: iStock)
When a routine mammogram revealed cancer, support came from the Breast Cancer Network Australia. (Pic: iStock)

I've been trained as a Community Liaison for BCNA so I fly the flag for the Pink Lady, our iconic logo, as well as educate and support locally. I am also a trained consumer representative, which allows me to be part of research boards, and assist BCNA in representing all those Australians diagnosed with breast cancer in political, scientific and community areas. I have been part of conferences and Field of Women events and have found every BCNA event to be educational and uplifting.

I know the future statistics show more and more will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and have confidence in the services BCNA offers, which will be constantly expanded and built upon.

Thousands of women gather to form the iconic pink lady symbol at the MCG. (Pic: News Corp)
Thousands of women gather to form the iconic pink lady symbol at the MCG. (Pic: News Corp)

On Australia Day this year I was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for my voluntary service to people with breast cancer. I was surprised and humbled by the honour, even a little embarrassed, because you never start out volunteering expecting recognition of any kind. I don't know who nominated me.

Last week I attended a reception at Government House in Melbourne for the BCNA 20th anniversary celebration, it was another honour I never expected. Hearing other people's stories spurs you on and without the strength and sincerity of all those associated with BCNA I would not be who I am today.

The Pink Lady stands tall in so many hearts and I am so proud to be a part of it.

Mandy Forteath volunteers with the Breast Cancer Network Australia, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary.