I was given a 50% chance of recurrence within two years when I was diagnosed. I am still here six years down the track...I am eternally grateful to the Cancer Society team for their valuable work in the community.Glenda
Glenda Rongen from Invercargill was diagnosed with a very aggressive Triple Negative stage 3 Grade C cancer which had also invaded 11 of her 13 lymph nodes. Even though cancer had been present for only a short period, it was highly aggressive.
“Every day, 71 New Zealanders will find out they have cancer. No one should face cancer alone. With the demand for the Cancer Society’s services increasing, support is needed more than ever. Daffodil Day symbolises hope and inspires communities to come together to support people living with cancer”, says Dr Rachael Hart, chief executive of the Cancer Society, Otago, and Southland Division.
“One morning in the shower, I noticed a firm area under my left arm. I was fitter than I had been for 20 years and was not concerned as it did not feel like a lump, plus I had a clear mammogram a few months before.
In the short period between discovering the lesion and attending my first appointment, it had seemingly grown overnight into what would turn out to be a 5.5 cm tumour. The surgeon told me straight away that I had breast cancer which involved a massive tumour, and he could also feel extensive lymph node involvement.
I was quickly scheduled for surgery, and in a matter of days, the tumour had grown to 7.5 cm, and I underwent a left mastectomy. I found it difficult to tell my son, especially after he had lost his baby. Telling my friends and grandchildren was just as hard.
Triple-negative cancers are not hormone receptive, and the only treatment options are surgery, chemo, and radiation which I then underwent for the next nine months.
I had a second elective mastectomy as I have never been interested in reconstruction and personally find it quite liberating being flat-chested.
Unfortunately, a couple of weeks post-op, my husband had a cardiac arrest in the backyard, and I had to perform CPR, which ultimately resulted in us both being admitted to Christchurch hospital. Stitches and drains don't take too kindly to that type of activity. But all was well; he survived, as did I.
Cindy Quertier from the Cancer Society has been so supportive. I regret not contacting the Cancer Society sooner when I was first diagnosed. Somewhat arrogantly, I thought, I'm not sick like those other people and did not want to identify with cancer. I realised how ignorant I was and how much easier things could have been with their valuable support programme and volunteering assistance.
Cancer Society can also help with prostheses, connecting with other services and providing a safe space for talking about your cancer and activities. I was gifted a lovely patchwork quilt that a local group had donated to people undergoing chemo.
Cindy recommended I stay at the Cancer Society's Daffodil House, and this was a joy. I stayed there while I was having treatment at Dunedin Hospital. I met some fantastic people there, and we were very supportive of each other, often having meals together and going for short walks. I am still in touch with some of these wonderful people today.
I was given a 50% chance of recurrence within two years when I was diagnosed. I am still here six years down the track. I have days when I start wondering if my ache or pain is a recurrence, but I try to ignore that parrot on my shoulder. I am eternally grateful to the Cancer Society team for their valuable work in the community.
I wrote my story to show that positivity doesn't cure cancer, but it helps the mind and shows people that the Cancer Society makes a real difference.”
Daffodil Day - No one should face cancer alone.
Daffodil Day symbolises hope for Glenda and all New Zealanders impacted by cancer.
Cancer doesn't stop; thanks to you, we won't either. More New Zealanders will get cancer this year than ever before. No one should face cancer alone.
Donations can be made at daffodilday.org.nz – please give generously this year.