The Beacon June FY22


A letter to me Rhea Felton was 34 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After her treatment ended, she wrote a letter to herself to capture her experience and reflect on how she’d changed when she came out the other side.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer at 34 years rattled you to the core. You held your daughters tightly in your arms, not knowing all the answers. Your husband would wake up at 3am to find you on the computer researching cancer treatment. Night and night again, wiping away tears of fear. Your daughter would notice you crying while cooking dinner and ask why your heart was sad. You would walk into Coles to buy milk but instead blankly gaze at the flour thinking about your upcoming surgery and forgetting why you came to the shops in the first place. To the woman on the left, your name was the one on the pathology report but all you could focus on was the wellbeing of your family. You felt an overwhelming sense of need to make sure they were supported through this moment in their story. And still do. The thought of being away for seven nights from your family sparked a huge amount of separation anxiety, which is still somewhat present. You felt the most isolated you have ever felt in your entire life. This photo is of you smiling one day after your mastectomy to reassure your girls their mum was ok. The physical pain was overwhelming, but you wanted your girls to feel comfort. Your three-year-old daughter cried while hugging you because she wanted to stay with you in hospital overnight and help you heal. You reflect that she is like you. Your husband tells you that your one-year-old daughter was walking into every room at home looking for mum, because mum was always there. But not now. This was hard. To the woman on the left, I see you for all of your fragilities and salute you for being you. In the deepest moments of your life, you were vulnerable, and brave and afraid. You are worthy. You are the strongest woman I know.

To the woman on the left, I see you.

I know you felt your quota of life-altering change was done when you lost your father to suicide at 16 years old, not knowing what was to unfold in the years ahead. You have felt fragile at many points in your life. Fragile, but not defeated. A sense of wonder and curiosity flow through your veins. Your 16-year-old way of questioning everything primed you well for your life ahead.

14 April 2020 | Issue 86

Breast Cancer Network Australia

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