Anya's story

Age at diagnosis: 58

My daughter nagged me for years to get a mammogram. My first one showed I had breast cancer.

"When my daughter, Emma started studying biomedical sciences at Otago University she asked me whether I'd had a mammogram. That was nearly eight years ago. No-one in my family had had breast cancer so I just fobbed off her question. She continued asking me the same thing over the next six years."

Anya kept putting off the test because she never thought she would end up with breast cancer.

No-one in my family had ever had breast cancer”, says Anya. She thought that because she had no family history of the disease, her risk was lower. Emma wasn't content with her mother’s evasive attitude. “For some reason she became very, very persistent, beginning each phone conversation or visit with "Had your mammogram yet?", says Anya.

The nagging paid off when Anya finally went for her first mammogram in 2010. “I found the mammogram uncomfortable, but ok. I didn't hear anything for a few weeks. So I thought everything was OK. Then Breast Screen wanted me to come in for some further tests and told me I had a lump growing in my right breast. Yes, you know the rest – I had breast cancer!

"[The doctor] said that it would have taken about two years to grow to the size it was. I'd done breast checks but had never felt anything, and even when I knew where the cancer was, I still couldn't feel it."

Anya underwent a lumpectomy and 16 sessions of radiotherapy to ensure all the cancer was removed. She was fortunate to receive amazing support. “One of my kid’s came with me to every medical meeting and I discovered that five women I worked with had had breast cancer.”

So, nearly two years on Anya has another mammogram due soon. “I will go happily, because I can. When I celebrate Mother's Day with my family I say a special thank you to Emma. I believe my daughter saved my life and I will always be so grateful to her for that.”

Anya, now 61, urges other women to have a mammogram and for their children to "take some responsibility" too. "If your mum hasn't had one, nag her until she has. And if you don't have someone nagging you, have one anyway. Don't be an ostrich and pretend it can't happen to you.”

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