A Paraparaumu Beach mother and daughter's participation in a virtual Relay for Life has had extra special significance.

Tracy Lee and daughter Phoebe, 17, walked from 10am until 6pm on Saturday around the Kotuku Park subdivision loop comprising The Drive, Kotuku Drive and Manly St.

Their inspiring and demanding eight hour walkathon was part of Relay for Life which is a community fundraising event where people celebrate cancer survivors, remember loved ones lost to cancer, and raise awareness and funds to support the Cancer Society.

Covid-19 disruption meant people couldn't walk together in a one main area so people were dispersed into small teams for a virtual relay.


Taking part was important especially after Tracy's stoic battle with breast cancer.

At the age of 45 Tracy had a routine mammogram which came back all clear.

But at the age of 47 she had another one which, on March 1 last year, led to a diagnosis of breast cancer.

Days later on March 20 she had surgery including the removal of both breasts.

"Through early detection they were able to eradicate it.

"It was quite a stressful thing to go through at the time.

"I'm just so relieved to still be walking on this earth whereas unfortunately there's a lot of people who lose the battle with cancer and it takes so many of us."

Phoebe Lee, left, and Tracy Lee. Photo / David Haxton
Phoebe Lee, left, and Tracy Lee. Photo / David Haxton

Tracy had no symptoms before her mammogram which detected the cancer.


She thinks the cancer might have started while having her phone in a high visibility vest pocket, over a breast, a lot at her previous place of work.

"It's just funny that where my phone was, was where I had quite a lot of cancer.

"And they were four very small cancers so weren't ones that you would feel.

"If they had got to a stage where I would have felt them, then it probably would have been too late.

"That's why it's so important for women to have the two yearly mammogram.

"I only had cancer in the one breast, where the phone fitted, but I decided to have both removed.

"I didn't want to go through this maybe later on if I got cancer in the other breast.

"It was easier for them both to go."

Shortly after Tracy's breast removal surgery, Phoebe took part in the Relay for Life Wellington in the Westpac Stadium (now Sky Stadium) which had a lot of meaning for the youngster.

Phoebe was keen to do it again, and Tracy was up for it as she was fit and healthy, so they signed up for this year's event.

They were part of the Whitby Collegiate school team which, because of Covid-19, saw members walk in their own areas on Saturday.

Raising awareness of cancer was the key reason for the duo's participation.

"Cancer doesn't define anybody and anyone can get it," Tracy said.

She walked an impressive 40km and Phoebe notched up 48km.

"We kept the baton, which was a wooden spoon, going for the whole eight hours.

"We did pretty well and we raised money for the Cancer Society.

"There was a real sense of achievement when we passed the finish line.

"I'm just very proud and it's for a great cause."