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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Give the gift of research, support and hope this Mother’s Day

The second Sunday of May is marked in Australian calendars as a day to celebrate important women – whether it be your own, a partner or a friend, everyone knows a special mother. Gifting more than flowers, thousands of Canberrans will join the Mother’s Day Classic on Sunday 12 May to show their support and raise funds for women facing breast cancer.

Since launching in 1998 with a goal of a world with zero deaths due to breast cancer, the five-year survival rate has increased from 84 percent to 92 percent. In contrast, over the past 30 years, there has been little advancement in the treatment of ovarian cancer, which still has a survival rate of 49 percent. Hoping to raise the same kind of awareness and research funds for ovarian cancer, this year the Mother’s Day Classic is supporting both cancers.

“There’s no early detection tests [for ovarian cancer], most people when they realise they’ve got it, they’re very advanced. Whereas with breast cancer, we’re detecting it a lot earlier which means it’s more treatable. A lot of women are dismissed with any symptoms as being just women’s cramps or cysts. They’re equally important, not one thing is more important than the other because women are dying,” Leanne Coveney, breast cancer survivor.

Events like the Classic help raise awareness and fund research to help with early detection, prevention, find better cures and treatments and offer patients better support. These supports and the research funded can help save the lives of the 57 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia each day, women like Leanne.

However, Leanne’s journey isn’t like most. In 2019 after experiencing pains in her arm and headaches, doctors investigated and found no cause. In 2020, she found a lump in her breast. Two days into the first pandemic lockdown, Leanne received a call informing her that she had breast cancer.

“I had a bilateral mastectomy which was about three weeks into the lockdown. I was in hospital all on my own…Venturing out of the house was a bit of a scary place in the first few weeks of Covid, let alone to go to hospital and have that kind of extensive surgery.”

The cancer was more extensive than first thought, which led to additional treatments such as chemotherapy and numerous blood transfusions. Now in remission and continuing her five-year treatment plan, Leanne is grateful for the care she received, especially during such an uncertain time.

“All of those professionals coming to work in those early stages to look after people like me was just phenomenal. We were all living in fear of Covid and what that might mean for us and how bad it is going to get in the world,” she says.

As most of the world was shut down, Leanne didn’t have friends and family stopping by to check in and the breast care nurses couldn’t visit. She could only see friends via Zoom, so her support team really was her medical team. One moment of kindness stood out for Leanne when her surgeon stopped by with a pot plant the day after surgery.

“To say ‘Look it’s not flowers but I’ve got this for you, I thought about you sitting here on your own over the weekend’. Often the medical profession are seen to be cold and treat people like a number but there are a lot of wonderful people out there. It was just what I needed at the time,” smiles Leanne.

When the world began opening up more, Leanne was cautious. She says it took a while for her to feel confident to step back into the life she used to lead. Along with a long recovery thwarted by complications and side effects, the fear of cancer returning is ever present.

“It’s always front and centre in your mind but to the best of my ability I’m out trying to live a normal life again. I’ll take each day as it comes, one foot in front of the other, I’ve got a new appreciation for how fragile life can be.”

Last year was the first that Leanne felt well enough to participate in the Classic, she was glad she could share the event with her family. Although sombre at times as people remember those they have lost, Leanne says the Classic is also a great celebration of life and of the success rates thanks to charity support. 

“Halfway round I was so exhausted, but I kept going. There’s wonderful support all around the lake, people with their streamers and cowbells, it encourages you to keep going.”

Leanne’s advice to other women is to know your body as it will tell you what you need and to be persistent when you know something is not quite right. Women also need to take the time to ensure they are caring for themselves and not just everyone around them, she says.

“We’re not good at doing it because we’re used to putting other people around us first…If your energy level is substantially different or you’ve got a pain that won’t go way, there are things we need to notice. It might turn out to be nothing but it might turn out to be something – and it might save your life.”

Suitable for all fitness levels and age groups, support mums and women everywhere by starting this Mother’s Day with a walk around our beautiful lake.

“It’s on in the morning so you’ve still got plenty of time in the day to go and have lunch or dinner or other things as well. Most importantly, it’s about fundraising so that we can continue to improve the chances of life for people like myself,” smiles Leanne.

Join the Mother’s Day Classic at Lake Burley Griffin on Sunday 12 May, register here; mothersdayclassic.com.au

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