When a lump in Vicky Newman's neck revealed the cancer in her breast had likely spread, the then 35-year-old's breast surgeon walked out of the consulting room.

The surgeon went to a back corridor, a breast cancer nurse would later tell Newman, recalling the moment that doctors feared the Kaukapakapa mum of two young children would die.

"He went where I couldn't hear him and then he went 'f***' really loudly."

That was 19 years ago in April.

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Vicky Newman survived breast cancer 20 years ago. She is hosting a Pink Ribbon breakfast next month, as part of the annual fundraiser for the Breast Cancer Foundation. Photo / Sylvie Whinray
Vicky Newman survived breast cancer 20 years ago. She is hosting a Pink Ribbon breakfast next month, as part of the annual fundraiser for the Breast Cancer Foundation. Photo / Sylvie Whinray

Newman didn't die. In fact, within weeks, the northwest Auckland mum was cancer-free, and has remained so since.

Next month, she will host a Pink Ribbon Breakfast - her first - to support Breast Cancer Foundation NZ.

The 54-year-old hoped she could raise at least $5000 and the signs are good so far.

"I've got $2100 raised and I haven't even had my breakfast, when people come in and I can accost them."

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Newman has a straightforward attitude to life, whether it be how to help a charity that supports those with New Zealand's most common cancer for women or what to do when a doctor tells you the lump in your breast is a grade 3, 4.8cm-sized malignant tumour.

That news came on a Tuesday. The next day the young mum met a surgeon in a public hospital. A day after that, her right breast was removed.

"Just get on with it," Newman said of her thoughts at the swiftness of her mastectomy within 48 hours of diagnosis.

"I'm not mucking around, we'll talk about reconstruction later. Because these things spread.

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"And it wasn't just about me. It was about surviving for my husband, for my kids, for my whole family."

Vicky Newman, pictured with her children Daniel and Georgia, during her cancer treatment in 2000. Photo / Supplied
Vicky Newman, pictured with her children Daniel and Georgia, during her cancer treatment in 2000. Photo / Supplied

Then there was six months of chemotherapy, five weeks of radiation, a celebratory holiday in Bali and, 19 years ago last April, that appointment with her breast surgeon to talk about reconstruction surgery.

They talked about the surgery, then Newman told him about a lump she'd felt in her neck.

There was the swear word in the corridor, a follow-up ultrasound revealing multiple lymph nodes showing the cancer had spread in her chest and then - within a day - there was a plan.

Newman would go on an international trial for Herceptin, now the most widely used biological treatment for breast cancer - it is used to treat early and advanced HER2-positive breast cancer - but until 2008 wasn't publicly funded.

"[In 2000] it was $2500 per weekly dose in private. The trial was looking at [giving] three times the dose every three weeks instead."

The situation, noted in a letter from one of her oncologists to another, was confronting.

"In the letter he said, 'Vicky understands she has a less than 30 per cent chance of responding to Herceptin."

Unless someone tells you you're absolutely dying, you're living, breast cancer survivor Vicky Newman's says is her message to others facing the disease. Photo / Supplied
Unless someone tells you you're absolutely dying, you're living, breast cancer survivor Vicky Newman's says is her message to others facing the disease. Photo / Supplied

When Newman received her first triple-dose the lump in her neck, which was where the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes and from where it was expected it would spread, most likely, to the liver, lungs and bones, was 2.1cm.

Before her second dose it had halved.

By the time she was to receive her third dose - she would remain on Herceptin for nine months - all her secondary cancer had disappeared.

It didn't return.

"I'm a poster girl for the pharmaceutical companies. I wouldn't be here now without Herceptin."

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Although she was made aware of the seriousness of her situation while she had cancer, she was also determined to keep a positive outlook.

Newman, a former emergency department nurse who now does insurance medicals, asked her oncologist to tell her "the good stories".

"He told me about a woman who had 20 positive lymph nodes under her arm - that's a lot - and he said, 'She's still sending me Christmas cards, 10 years on.'"

She wanted to tell others going through their own breast cancer diagnosis or treatment to "cross each bridge as you come to it".

"Don't get tied up in potential future prognosis. Unless someone tells you you're absolutely dying, you're living. So go for it."

Pink Ribbon Breakfast was about Kiwis coming together "to help us make zero deaths from breast cancer a reality", Breast Cancer Foundation NZ chief executive Evangelia Henderson said.

"Vicky's story is inspiring and we're so grateful she is raising vital funds and awareness for us. The proceeds raised will go towards our life-saving work – supporting patients, pushing for scientific breakthroughs and spreading the word about early detection.

"So, please get involved in whatever way you can – your support will make a real difference."

To donate to Newman's fundraiser go to https://pinkribbonbreakfast.co.nz/page/vickynewman