Two years ago Barrack Heights woman Karen Martin received a double blow when she was diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer on the same day.
Mrs Martin had lost her mother, Joan, to ovarian cancer more than two decades before her own diagnosis, so knew something of the battle that lay ahead.
However, despite the 10-hour operation she had to endure and the gruelling regime of chemotherapy and radiotherapy that followed, the 56-year-old has a positive message this Pink Ribbon Day.
The official date for the 2013 Pink Ribbon Day is next Monday, although in many areas including the Illawarra, stalls selling pink merchandise will be set up this Friday.
‘‘My mother had the best treatment that was available at the time but in the 20 years since, there has been so much progress made in both the screening and treatment of cancer which has saved so many women’s lives,’’ Mrs Martin said.
‘‘The Cancer Council’s Pink Ribbon Day raises funds for research and support services for both breast and gynaecological cancers which is a great thing.
‘‘On Friday I’ll be showing my support by volunteering my time at a stall in Stockland Shellharbour.’’
Like Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie and many others, Mrs Martin inherited the BRCA gene which indicates an increased risk of breast cancer although she had never been tested.
‘‘I had had symptoms for a few years but none that I could relate to cancer,’’ she said.
‘‘I was very tired, I would quite often feel bloated and suffered from constipation and I began to get severe chest pains, stomach pains, back pains and pains in my left shoulder and arm.’’
A range of tests followed, but it was a PET scan that showed the extent of the cancer in her body – not only did she have breast and ovarian cancer, it had spread to other areas including her liver and gall bladder.
This month marks two years since her diagnosis and subsequent operation and treatment; follow-up scans have come back clear. ‘‘Had I known that my mother carried the gene then I am certain I would have been tested and preventative measures taken,’’ she said. ‘‘Please if you have a family history, get tested and seek advice. ...I am so lucky I am still here and alive.’’
Cancer Council NSW regional manager Toby Dawson said while breast cancer was still the most common cancer in women, 31per cent more women in Australia were alive than would have been expected two decades ago.
‘‘This is due to major advances in screening, treatment and prevention programs many of which have been a direct result of the community supporting fund-raising events like Pink Ribbon Day,” he said.