Lizl Matthewsonis a member of Pink Patrol
I’m taking part in this year’s Pink Star Walk but I need your help to make a difference. I am so blessed and grateful to be a survivor. It has been a challenging journey during which l continue to be humbled by the love and support I received.
(My story at the end)
Fundraising is my chance to give back in aiding those who are fighting and who will have to fight.
Your support would be so much appreciated and could help so much.
For example, $40 could fund an hour with an experienced breast nurse to support breast cancer patients in their time of need.
For example, with $250 theBreast Cancer Foundation NZ will be able to fund two counselling sessions for a woman recovering from or living with breast cancer, or laboratory equipment needed for vital research to improve breast cancer patient survivorship. Of course you don’t have to sponsor $40 – any amount will be hugely appreciated and gratefully received.
With Lots of Love 💕
I never thought it would happen to me, not at 37.
I breast fed both my children. My daughter Elzette had colic and reflux, so I thought nothing of it when she stopped feeding from my right breast. I simply thought she must have a preference or was more comfortable feeding on the left.
Early January last year, while lying down feeding 14 month old Elzette, I felt a large lump on my right breast. I figured it was probably a blocked milk duct but still decided to get it checked out by my GP, not wanting to get mastitis.
My GP made an appointment for me to get a mammogram and scan. I had not left Elzette before this and had my mother travelling on her way to start a cruise and my husband too busy at work. I confided in my friend Lynda who took Elzette for a walk while I went to my appointment.
An appointment was made for a biopsy to be done a few days later.
On a phone call to my mum in Sydney boarding the next day, I lied and said that it was in fact a blocked milk duct. I did not want to worry her and have her cancel their trip for what was probably nothing to worry about.
Lynda helped me with Elzette again when I went for my biopsy. I was told that an appointment was made to see a doctor at the hospital with results in about 3 weeks.
It was a long wait, during which I was convinced, well...most of the time, that everything was going to be fine.
On the day of the appointment, we went to Nature Land as a family, and my husband took the kids home while I went to get my results.
I was diagnosed with high grade DCIS cancer, a precursor to aggressive cancer. The mass was about 6cm in diameter. My options were to have just the lump removed and have radiation or have a mastectomy.
I decided that I had to do whatever will have me be away from my children the least and greatest chance to remove all the cancer....mastectomy was my choice straight away. I still remember the nurse telling me to put my sunnies on as I left the room.
I cried the 30 minute drive home then put on a brave face for the kids, only getting to talk to my husband once they were asleep. We decided to go on as normal not letting the kids into all the emotions.
The next day I had to tell my parents.
I picked them up from the airport with Elzette. Dad was busy down stairs as I sat with mum while she was unpacking. Finally dad came and I told them to sit I needed to talk to them. After asking mum to sit again, she replied, “You’re not pregnant are you?” I then tried to hold it together as I referred to my doctor notes and told them I had cancer. This was so hard to do. My dad’s response was, “How do we get rid of this, you do not go into a battle planning to lose!”.
With dad’s words in mind, I started telling family and some friends. I told them that everything was going to be fine and that we were not planning to lose.
A visit with my friend Vicki and telling her ended with me saying that I hope we will have a chance to have a wine before the mastectomy. Her reply “A Bye Bye Boobie drink”.
From this I decided to have a Bye Bye Boobie Party with close to 40 women a week before my mastectomy. I felt so supported and loved through all the wine, dancing and laughter shared.
Just before the mastectomy, I explained to my then 3 and half year old son that mamma had a sick boobie and that the doctor has to take it away. Jared thought about it then said, “Are they going to chop it off?” “It’s ok mamma, we can buy another one from the boobie shop”....
The day before the operation I had a coffee with my friend Jo who could not make it to the party. She brought me to tears as she gave me bags filled with all sorts, including pampering goodies, vouchers and plenty of home cooking and food. Her coffee group who I hardly know had gifted me this, but didn't realise that they also filled my heart with so much gratitude and love.
That afternoon I visited my parents neighbours who are ministers, and who have been praying so much for me and my family. They sat me down and asked me what I wanted them to pray for. I asked for them to pray for the cancer to be gone and for me to be able to be here for my children. They blessed me and we prayed together for God to take this evil cancer away!
24 February 2017, I had a mastectomy and 6 lymph nodes removed. I remember telling the story of my 'Bye Bye Boobie Party' to the team in theatre as my anaesthetic took affect. Waking up in recovery, I was told that I was offering to make the nurses coffee!
I appreciated all the messages and visitors. The hardest part was being away from my children for that night.
Coming home to a still breast feeding baby girl, a busy 2 and a 1/2 year old son, and a very busy working for himself husband. I was fortunate to have, my rock, my mother, come and stay for a week, followed by my mother in law also staying for a week. I also have amazing friends from out of town coordinate visits to come stay and help.
My mother, Henriette and daughter Elzette were with me as I met my oncologist about 4 weeks after surgery. My results were that my margins were cleared and that I was cancer free. I was also informed about next steps in getting reconstruction done and that process could start 3 months after Elzette stopped feeding. She breast fed on the one boob till she was nearly 2!
Until the reconstruction I was able to wear a prosthesis breast. I could not wait to get my prosthesis and look 'normal'. It so happened that the first day of wearing it, I did a talk at a Pink Ribbon Breakfast hosted by Nelson College for Girls. A talk which has lead to more talks and other Pink Ribbon Breakfasts and media coverage of how my little angel helped me find my cancer. There was no hesitation to publish and share my journey if there was a chance that it makes even one person check themselves. At this stage in my journey I had learnt how important it is to know yourself physically and emotionally, check yourself, and get help and wanted to share that message.
Having had large breast, my prosthesis was heavy and would be taken off whenever I was home. I became a bit too relaxed and sometimes rushed that there had been several occasions where I would leave home without wearing it would use nappies to stuff my bra for the day.
I always tried to be positive as I am so very grateful that I have no more cancer, but there has been many dark days. Days where it gets harder to put on a brave face and make out that everything is fine. It was mostly my mother whom I would cry to and say that I am not having a good day. These days are so much less now, but still sneak up on me.
In March this year I started my breast reconstruction. I was to have a Pedicel Tram Flap Reconstruction surgery, where by my stomach would be used to make a new breast. After having 'grown' a nearly 11 pound and a 10 pound baby, there was plenty of belly to make a breast from. This part was done over 2 surgeries in Wellington and a week of my mamma holding my hand and friends and family visiting (including my Team Member Debbie, who visited all the way from Hawkes Bay).
Unfortunately a part of the new tissue did not attach and an infection developed. Once the infection was gone and the wound healed, my surgeon 'fixed' the new breast and performed breast reduction surgery to match my other breast.
This surgery was 3 months ago and although the scars are always going to be there, it is so wonderful to have 'breasts' and feel a bit more like a woman.
This breast cancer journey has changed me so much. I have had to learn to be patient. Patiently waiting, what seams like years, for appointments, surgeries, results and recoveries. I have received so much love, support and care from friends, family, strangers and medical professionals and services. This has been the most challenging time of my life during which there has been so much love, so much hurt, darkness and light. My outlook on life and what is important is no longer what it once was. I am working on being a calmer, happier and healthier person, living in the now and loving life.