Status McAlpine
Helena McAlpine's musings on life as a member of the Facebook generation

Time to check out your breasts

With my daughter at last weekend's Dove Pink Star Walk. Photo / Supplied
With my daughter at last weekend's Dove Pink Star Walk. Photo / Supplied

I am 32-years-old and mother to a 10-year-old daughter. I am 5'2" and weigh about 64kgs. I am no different from thousands of Kiwi women in most ways but this time last year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I also happen to look fabulous in pink.

October heralds Breast Cancer Awareness month and the entire country flashes its pink bits with pride.

The Auckland Sky Tower gets lit up like a big gay spark plug; every second bar or nightclub throws a pink-themed party; $2 shops do a roaring trade in pink glittery wigs and straight men raid their partners' wardrobes without fear of 'misunderstandings'.

It's exactly a year to the day that I was diagnosed with breast cancer - I can't believe a whole 12 months have flown past.

While I was a bit miffed about having my left breast removed, I was cheered by the thought of it being rebuilt with skin and muscle from my back and some tissue from (ahem) 'downstairs' to reconstruct my nipple.

I've been surprised that I found months of chemo easier than weeks of radiotherapy.

There have been days when I've stayed in bed and others where I've felt like I can take on the world.

I've looked forward to experiencing a range of hospital drugs, losing my hair and all the other side effects of having cancer.

Apart from death.

The other effects I knew were temporary, but death is somewhat permanent and I can do without that one, thank you very much.

Thanks to the love and support of my Kiwi friends and family it's been easy to deal with. And some of those people came with me on the Dove Pink Star Walk last Saturday.

Just getting to The Domain is for The Walk is magical. Everywhere you look there are hundreds of people heading in the same direction dressed in pink with happy faces and a sense of purpose.

Once amassed, the sea of pink is inspiring. You hear snippets of conversation; a sister's success story... the loss of a mother... the hope of a friend.

You can't help but love the costumes. At no other time of the year can I chat to a man dressed as a fruity pink Viking while The Pink Panther wanders past holding hands with a 6'3" fairy resplendent in illuminated wings.

Unless we bring back the Hero Parade.

At The Dove Pink Star Walk I gave a speech. Right up until the mic was put in my hand I had no idea what I was going to say.

But, as the subject matter was to be about me and my story (and due to the fact that I honestly do love the sound of my own voice) two and a half minutes flew by.

I talked about being a mother, a daughter a sister, a lover. I explained that early detection was vital; that regular examinations were crucial regardless of age. I raged and urged that we needed to support! Donate! Spread the word!

It was a real "Evita" moment. I felt like Churchill giving the 'We will fight them on the beaches' speech. I connected with the crowd. I was in the zone ... right up until my 10-year-old daughter, who was standing next to me, grabbed my hand.

I looked down, wide eyed with adrenaline rushing. I imagined that she was inspired by her mother; that I was the centre of her universe and that this was one of those moments she would remember for the rest of her life.

She looked up at me and said: "Blimey mum. You don't half go on."


A least I finally achieved a life-long ambition: I got a crowd of hundreds to simultaneously fondle their breasts. Naturally, it was all for a good cause.

So seriously, support Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Hopefully we can prevent our daughters from getting this disease.

And then none of them will be interrupted during a speech about it.

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