Mother of two, Katrina Pirpinias, is one of many breast cancer survivors who is using the month of October to reflect on her experiences as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Katrina was diagnosed in 2013 after noticing a lump in one of her breasts and biopsy results confirmed she had three cancerous lumps.
“I must have had a blank look of my face. I was quiet and calm for about 40 seconds and then panic set in and I said, what are my kids going to do? My initial sadness was for my kids,” Katrina tell us.
“After that I went straight off to Cheryl, the Northern Health Breast Care Nurse, and started my ‘journey’. That morning was spent discussing all the ways we could go with surgery and treatments,” she said.
Katrina encourages women who have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer to just take a moment.
“Don’t think of the worst case scenario straight away, just give yourself time to let it all sink in. Then listen to the advice and take it on board clearly and calmly,” she said.
“Take a breath and slow down. Remember that everyone’s journey is different – someone else’s story is different to your story.”
Breast Care Nurse, Cheryl Murray, said, “What you don’t usually hear are all the good stories – and the majority are the good stories. 91 per cent of women will survive breast cancer after five years.”
“The moment you get diagnosed with cancer, you start to decondition but it’s important to keep routine – go to work if you are able, keep routine for the kids as that’s really important for them, keep busy and exercise,” Cheryl added.
“I felt ordinary, but I still did normal things, I still went camping, still took the kids to school every day,” Katrina said.
After losing her hair from chemotherapy treatment, Katrina said, “I was lucky because it was in winter so it didn’t really stand out but I didn’t like not having eyebrows or eyelashes – that made me look unwell.”
“I remember my girlfriend cut my hair when the first clump came out and I wasn’t quite ready to let go of my hair,” she added.
Six years later, following chemotherapy and a double mastectomy, Katrina has a new bill of health.
Katrina’s story is one of many, as breast cancer remains the most common cancer among Australian women.
The month of October is dedicated to focusing on the impact of those affected by breast cancer in our community, and raising awareness of early detection.
“Breast cancer awareness is all about getting to know your breasts and what they feel like, and if there’s any changes, see your GP. While screening mammograms are primarily recommended for women aged 50-74, women aged 40-49 are welcome to have a free breast screening mammogram with BreastScreen Victoria every two years,” Cheryl said.
“Early detection is such a massive factor for survival and Australia has one of the highest survival rates in the world, so we’re doing something right.”
Northern Health Foundation are currently fundraising for a new scalp cooling machine for our Craigieburn Oncology Unit. Scalp cooling machines help to preserve hair by cooling hair follicles so they are not as affected by chemotherapy, helping to retain hair and improve self esteem. Click here to donate today!
Featured Image (left to right): Katrina Pirpinias with Cheryl Murray