With three family members already having succumbed to cancer, Hamilton woman Zandra Bleasdale knew she'd have to tread carefully when telling her two young children her news.

Over the past four years, Bleasdale has lost her mother, step mum and step dad to pancreatic and lung cancers, respectively.

It's meant that her children, aged 7 and 10, now know how deadly cancer can be.

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On the first day of the lockdown last month, the 45-year-old was told she had breast cancer.

Zandra Bleasdale and daughter Danni, 7, and son, George, 10. Photo / Supplied
Zandra Bleasdale and daughter Danni, 7, and son, George, 10. Photo / Supplied

"Probably the hardest part was telling them, because we've lost, for them three grandparents, but for me, three parents in the last four years to cancer.

"My daughter has been making me a cup of tea every morning since I got diagnosed and she's only 7. She's almost had to grow up a little bit."

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Three weeks in and on Monday, her son asked his first question about what she was going through.

"He's very inquisitive and he researches a lot of stuff. But this is one thing that I told him that he just didn't want to know about, which I took as him just needing to process it.

"[Monday] morning was the first time he has ever asked me something about it, and he just said, 'Mum what emotions did you have when you got told you had cancer?'

Zandra Bleasdale has been diagnosed with breast cancer aged 45. She is pictured with her children Danni and George. Photo / Supplied
Zandra Bleasdale has been diagnosed with breast cancer aged 45. She is pictured with her children Danni and George. Photo / Supplied

"I was just like 'wow, okay'. But it just shows him to a tee, that he's just absorbed all this other stuff in conversation that's gone on around him."


While her journey is just beginning, the c-word was still fresh amongst the family, given her mother's hard fought battle with pancreatic cancer.

"Mum was the most recent one, about 18 months ago, but before her was my step mum and step dad as well.

"So for my kids, their only experience with cancer was that it was terminal and you died, so I had to be careful when I told them.

"[Mum] did very well fighting that but she did go through a lot to extend her life. She had 13 rounds of chemo and it was like, maximum dose chemo to try and extend her life.

"She did manage to get a lot done. It was a hard journey, especially nursing her towards the end of it."

However, getting diagnosed at the start of the lockdown has meant it's been a tough journey for the usually independent mum.


"I am quite an independent person anyway because I solo mum my two, so you get used to doing a lot of stuff on your own. but all of a sudden you're faced with something where you actually do need people around you and you don't and they can't be."

While she was fortunate enough to have her sister, Zeta, also living in Hamilton and able to drop her off at appointments including last week's mastectomy surgery, it was tough going for her father who lived in Whakatane.

"It's hard on my Dad. He's in Whakatane and my Dad doesn't get upset and doesn't cry but talking to him on the phone, ringing him when I came out of surgery to talk to him, he just can't do anything and he feels helpless.

"He nursed his wife through her cancer and then he watched us deal with our Mum's [cancer], his first wife's cancer, so he went through his own journey with that as well.

"He feels like he's not here to support me."

When diagnosed she was told there would be a 4 to 6 week wait for surgery on her right breast and lymph nodes. However, that wait could be pushed out depending on how busy the hospital was with Covid cases.


Not knowing how far the cancer has spread, she decided to use her savings and go private. She was able to have her surgery, to remove her right breast and lymph node dissection, carried out on April 6.

Now, she waits for her results.

"The rest of my treatment is hinging on those results but it's likely to be chemo. We're just not sure what that looks like because of how much is in those lymph nodes.

"Chemo is going to give me the best chance of knocking it on the head and being around for my kids which is the biggest thing. "

Breast Cancer NZ spokeswoman Adele Gautier said she felt for Bleasdale and agreed that going through cancer was especially lonely at the moment.

"It's true that the process will be a lonelier one and that's really hard when you're facing major trauma."


However, she was pleased that cancer treatments remained a priority at the country's hospitals, despite the wait being a minimum of 4 weeks.

She also urged women who found a lump during the lockdown to see their GP immediately.