I was 73 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May last year. A couple of weeks after a routine check-up, I received a letter to attend BreastScreen.
When my diagnosis was confirmed, I was shocked, but I knew I must remain positive. Radiation treatment was recommended.
At the time, I was very busy. The AFL’s Indigenous Round was being renamed in honour of my father, Sir Doug Nicholls. I was too busy to worry about myself having breast cancer, as at the time the football round was more important to me. I just carried on doing what I needed to do at the time and then after the footy I focused on my treatment and recovery.
I was supported by my family, friends and work colleagues, but what helped me the most was staying positive throughout my journey, which I continue to do to this day.
I had taken up exercise more than 20 years earlier at the age of 50, and completed my first triathlon when I was 59. I didn’t want to let my breast cancer stop me from maintaining my healthy lifestyle.
I kept exercising, as I knew this would help in my recovery and reduce my risk of recurrence. This year I will be taking part in my 20th Mother’s day Classic fun run.
I haven’t let my breast cancer slow me down and I continue to live a busy life as a Yorta Yorta woman and an elder of the Victorian Aboriginal community.
I worry that some Aboriginal women feel shame and are not confident about going to mainstream breast cancer screening services. It is our culture to share among ourselves. I think the community would benefit from having specialist Aboriginal breast cancer services.
I think it’s important for Aboriginal women to connect with others who have faced the same challenge. I would be very happy to speak with any other Aboriginal women who are facing this journey.
Aunty Pam, VIC