Finding support and community at Relay for Life: Rebecca’s story
By Cancer Council NSW
Rebecca was diagnosed with breast cancer following a routine mammogram in April 2022. Little did she know that this would be the start of a journey that would see her deepen her relationship with both her family and her faith – and develop friendships in unexpected places.
Rebecca credits her local Relay for Life as a key source of community and support during her diagnosis. “The friendships I’ve made through this event have made such an impact on my life,” she says.
The event – which brings together local communities to raise vital funds for Cancer Council – has also helped Rebecca to process her experiences by sharing her story with others and celebrating her survivorship.
“Celebrating surviving cancer is just as important as remembering those we have lost. And ensuring that we let others know how to detect cancer early is paramount,” she adds.
Tackling treatment side effects – and the prospect of genetic testing
Rebecca found treatment challenging – as the rounds of chemotherapy continued, so did the side effects, including fatigue, nausea, an irregular heartbeat, and blood clots.
“We all know I’m an over-achiever, but this was ridiculous, I was ticking off nearly every side effect!” she laughs.
But for Rebecca, nothing was worse than waiting for the results of the genetic testing, to see whether her two daughters were at increased risk of breast cancer.
“For weeks all I could think was, ‘Please God don’t let me have the BRCA gene mutation, please spare Tiana and Chelsea from getting cancer’,” she says. “Relief rushed through my entire body as I heard the words. The girls had been spared and for that I will forever be thankful.”
Having God by her side during the tough times
Rebecca remembers some tough times during her cancer experience, starting with the fact that she wasn’t allowed her family with her during treatment due to COVID restrictions.
But Rebecca wasn’t alone.
“God provided me with a nurse who not only I knew but also lived on our street. I was extremely pleased to see a friendly face,” she remembers.
Once she finished her chemotherapy treatment, Rebecca went into hospital for a bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction. She remembers dreading the wait for her operation, knowing that it would only stress her out more.
But then she bumped into an old friend.
“We chatted and laughed, and the time went so quickly that I didn’t even have time to get nervous,” says Rebecca. “I knew God was looking out for me again. Little did I know that my husband had also bumped into a good friend. God was looking after him too.”
Finding positive connection through her cancer experience
Although cancer is never easy, Rebecca has seen positives come from her experience. She’s built a stronger connection with her aunts, both of whom have been through mastectomies themselves, and she’s spent quality time with her parents.
“I remember telling my parents I had cancer and Mum’s response was, “You won’t have to do it alone, we will be with you every step of the way”. They certainly kept their promise,” she says.
Relay for Life has also been a source of positivity for Rebecca throughout her cancer experience, and she’s already making plans to take part in the 2024 event with her family and friends.
Rebecca says there’s three key things she’s learned from the last two years.
“Firstly, you can’t change what is dealt to you but you can get through it with persistence, love and a whole lot of faith. Secondly, you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have,” she says.
“Mammogramming your boobs is way more important than instagramming them!”