In case you missed it: This was one of Lifestyle's most popular stories of 2016

Kiwi woman Amber Arkell was just 26 years old when her boyfriend discovered a lump, that turned out to be cancer, on her right breast one night while cuddling in bed.

"We were spooning. I'm not a large-breasted woman and I was on my left side and Kieran was spooning behind me and he had a handful of my right breast. He was like 'What's that?' and it's a bit of a heart-sinking moment, when you reach round and feel something," she told the Herald.

"There was nothing we could do. I'm quite realistic when it comes to things I can and can't control and the reality was that I couldn't control anything that night, so I did my best to leave it and go to sleep."

Arkell made an appointment with her doctor the next day but because of the upcoming Labour Weekend and pre-arranged travels visited her GP the following week.


Doctors investigated and two months later it was revealed she had Grade 2 breast cancer, which was later increased to Grade 3 after it was found the cancer was more aggressive than initially thought.

She was advised it was necessary to begin chemotherapy as soon as possible.

Still smiling. Amber's positive attitude and determination for health was strong throughout her battle.
Still smiling. Amber's positive attitude and determination for health was strong throughout her battle.

After six months of treatment and a double mastectomy Arkell is currently cancer free.

She is now taking the opportunity to educate others around breast cancer awareness and urging women to check their breasts regularly - from as early as 20 years old.

Posted by When things went tits up on Sunday, 30 October 2016

Her blog 'When things went tits up' has documented her journey and she hopes to educate women about breast cancer from a real-life perspective. She is also sharing her story through motivational speaking engagements.

She told the Herald: "It was very natural to me to want to openly share because once we did find out that I had breast cancer ... I knew that it was a very rare thing to have had happen, but I was very concerned that at 26 years of age I was not aware that I should be doing self-examinations from the age of 20. I had no clue."

She believes there is a common misconception among young women throughout the world that breast cancer only effects people over 40 years of age - the recommended age to start having regular mammograms, which she knows too well is false.

I still have a lot to be smiling about :)

Posted by Amber Arkell on Tuesday, 26 July 2016

With almost 4000 subscribers to her blog already Arkell was delighted to have recently found out she has been awarded the Kiwibank Local Hero Medal for sharing her journey through her blog and her efforts to encourage women to do monthly self-examinations.


She said it was very unexpected as none of her work was ever about recognition so it was "amazing" to find out.

For Arkell's health going forward it is now about creating an environment in her body that cancer doesn't thrive in.

More than 600 New Zealand women die from breast cancer each year. For information on self-checks and warning signs head here. ​