Meet Pip

03 Sep 2021

Pip’s Story:

Why are you doing the Women’s 5K Walk/Run this year?

The timing of the W5K this year has allowed me to use it as a goal for fitness as part of my recovery from breast cancer. I have been attending weekly Exercise Physiology classes at the Cancer Council with other women who, like me, needed a safe, exercise appropriate space to aid healing both physically, emotionally, and socially. The classes have given me confidence in my new body and exercising alongside other women who have their own experience of cancer has provided a sense of community, friendship, and support. For me the W5K is a celebration of reaching my fitness goal, the fact that it raises funds and awareness for the Cancer Council is a bonus that helps to ‘pay it forward’. 

What inspires your team to do the event and raise funds for Cancer Council Tasmania?

My team is called the ‘B’ team as it is made up of friends and family mostly with names starting with ‘B’, especially my main supports: Bonnie, Brigette and Bec. I have invited everyone I know to assist me to fundraise as a way to ‘pay it forward’. The Cancer Council has been an invaluable resource throughout my experience with cancer and I know that the funds raised will help the Cancer Council to continue assisting others in their time of need. The W5K gives my team the chance to come together for a fun day out to celebrate life and living whilst raising awareness of cancer support at the Cancer Council.

How has Cancer Council Tasmania supported you in the past?

The Cancer Council has supported me in so many ways. I am convinced that it is because of the support that I have received through the Cancer Council that my recovery has been so successful. My initial contact offered access to counselling as my detection, diagnosis and surgery occurred over a very short time frame and I struggled to ‘get my head’ around it all. The Cancer Council provided information and visits from a breast care nurse whilst I was still in hospital. I also received the cutest little cushions which I still use for comfort knowing they have been made with love and care. I attended a Mindfulness taster session which reminded me of the benefit of this practise I had learned many years ago. I am currently accessing weekly Exercise Physiology classes with a person who is specifically trained, meaning that I can have confidence to trust that the exercises are appropriate. Weekly Pilates classes via zoom which has allowed me to exercise in the comfort of my own home, saving on travel expenses and the extra energy required to get to a class. I have used the beautifully peaceful rooms at the Cancer Council to rest between appointments and the well-equipped kitchen to prepare cuppas and healthy lunches. I have accessed reading material from their extensive library. I have utilised the carpark free of charge whilst attending appointments at the LGH. Most recently I have had a massage from a masseur specifically trained in cancer recovery who has assisted with my body confidence and relaxation. All of these forms of support have been accessed free of charge, with friendly welcomes and smiles from staff and volunteers. I feel very fortunate to have had these opportunities and I hope through the W5K that others become more aware of the variety of resources available at the Cancer Council.

TTell us your Cancer Journey and the importance of your community helping you through?

I know cancer is a very serious subject, however, my cancer story is one of feeling lucky and loved. Before this happened to me, I understood the idea of Community spirit but this is the first time in my life that I have experienced it first-hand and really felt it. If you are feeling lonely and isolated in your cancer journey, I encourage you to reach out and allow yourself to be vulnerable and ask for help from friends, family, and the Cancer Council.

My cancer was diagnosed through a routine screen with Breast Screen Tasmania, it had grown over a 12 – 18 month period between screens. I received the news that a biopsy was necessary whilst I was with my friend Brigette who suggested I make contact with my friend Bonnie who had been through breast cancer 12 months prior. Bonnie offered to attend the biopsy with me and although I am usually very independent, I was encouraged to allow others to assist me and I am very glad that I did as driving back from Hobart on my own would not have been an option, I was very sore and tired. A week later my doctor informed me that they had found cancer that required surgery. Bonnie and Breast Screen Tasmania had primed me for this outcome by sharing names of surgeons and an understanding of what might happen next. My surgeon of choice was not initially available, however through a stroke of luck she had a cancellation the very next week so I was booked for a double bilateral mastectomy with nipple grafts. This is not a standard choice offered to women. I had asked my surgeon if it was possible and luckily the plastic surgeon happened to be available on the same day, I felt like my stars were aligning. My son Sebastian and friend Brigette assisted me to get organised in the lead up to my surgery attending pre-op appointments and setting up my home for care. The night before my surgery my friend Bec took a body cast to create a sculpture and two other friends took photos to creatively record my body shape before it changed forever. On the day of surgery I was wheeled into Theatre 7 – my lucky number and as luck would have it, surgery was my cure; no radiation, chemo or hormone therapy were needed. So, within a 4-week period my cancer was detected, diagnosed, removed and I was deemed cancer free. What a whirlwind! For many, the focus is on breast conservation, for me, the focus was on being cancer free and being free from anxiety. I had no physical symptoms of breast cancer, no history of breast cancer in my family, so I champion the importance of having breast screens regularly.

As I live alone, my friend Bonnie was an amazing resource throughout this time, organising me to send out a letter to friends and family asking for assistance by way of prepared meals, travel, cleaning, and company. I was able to learn from Bonnie’s experience as to how I could get through this time feeling supported and able to totally focus on recovery. The numerous supports and resources that I have accessed through the Cancer Council added to this feeling of Community spirit. I am forever grateful to everyone who has assisted me throughout this time and I am looking forward to celebrating and ‘paying it forward’ at the W5K.