The Beacon December FY22


BREAST CANCER INSPIRED ME TO MAKE CHANGES TO MY LIFESTYLE O n an ordinary day, in August 2019, I was having a shower after the gym before rushing to work when a

thought popped into my mind: ‘ Go and look at yourself in the mirror ’. When I stepped out of the shower, I immediately saw puckered skin on my right breast and, as I checked it, I felt a lump. A few days later, I was diagnosed with locally advanced triple positive breast cancer. Just six weeks before my diagnosis, I had decided to take a break from drinking alcohol. Until then, I’d had an unbalanced relationship with alcohol. I was not a daily drinker but identified as a binge drinker. It didn’t align with my values. I’m into holistic health, enjoy walking, running and hiking, and exploring my spirituality. Alcohol made me feel disappointed and critical about myself. In the past, I used alcohol to cope with life’s challenges. Yet, faced with the huge challenge of a breast cancer diagnosis, I realised healing was more important. I remained alcohol free and focused on the other lifestyle choices I had control over, including exercise, nutrition and stress levels. The hardest part of going alcohol free was realising how much drinking was connected with my identity. I was the party girl and I got a lot of positive affirmation

Kath Elliot and Ralph

alcohol consumption. Even low to moderate levels of drinking can impact your overall breast cancer risk. For me, not drinking and my breast cancer diagnosis have changed my life—for the better. One of the greatest lessons I’ve taken from my diagnosis is that I don’t want to take life for granted. By taking control, I’m living a life aligned with my purpose and values. If you’re living a life that you’re not feeling happy and engaged in, remember you have the power to change it. Read more about Kath’s story here: BCNA’s My Journey has articles about lifestyle factors and breast cancer. For more information about alcohol as a risk factor for cancer, read the Cancer Council’s Alcohol and Cancer National Position Statement.

from it. It was confronting when I stopped and I often felt exposed and awkward. But it became easier over time. The more I socialised without drinking, the more I enjoyed it, because I was being my true self. People understood why I didn’t want to drink during treatment. However, once my treatment ended, most thought I’d start again. They’d say things like, ‘ Don’t you want to have a champagne to celebrate the end of treatment ?’. But I still didn’t want to drink. As I became more educated about alcohol being a risk factor for breast cancer and other cancers, I was shocked and annoyed that information is not made more available. None of my doctors spoke directly about it. I think it’s important for women to know about the risk so they can make informed choices about their

Issue 93 | December 2022


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