Interview with Anne Tuliakiono (Breast Cancer Survivor)

Interviewer: What was your response or how did you react when the doctor told you that you had cancer?

Anne: I was quite shocked, mainly because I wasn’t expecting it. Everyone keeps you thinking that it’s going to be quite positive, and he (the doctor) hadn’t done my tissue sample. But he looked at my mammogram, and he said to me “Oh I can tell you now that you are most likely to have cancer.” So I just started to cry. That’s how he told me I had cancer.

Obviously, you are still having a difficult time.

Only when you asked me, because that’s how I remember it, the first time, on the first day.

What made you go to the doctor?

I didn’t realise I had a lump over my breast, just under my armpit and I didn’t think much of it. It was my husband who found the lump. I went to my GP to get some tablets and they referred me to a specialist. I think it was in October, then I had to wait for the specialist to get my mammogram and ultrasound done.

Yeah, that’s why I went to the GP. I didn’t think anything of the lump. I thought I had a cyst.

You have had some treatments?

I’ve had all my treatments now.

What was the biggest challenge of the treatments that you have experienced?

I think the chemotherapy. I had a mastectomy in December; I think I had to wait until March to have chemotherapy. That was the biggest challenge for me because it [chemotherapy] made me feel sick all the time, so I didn’t like it.

Where did you get the support?

Mainly from my family and I would to go to the Cancer Society. But my family was my biggest support. I had some support from work as well, because I took time off during my chemotherapy.

During those treatments, what sort of things kept you going?

I always had support that kept me going, some days I would get shitty, because I was over the treatments. Because I have kids too, that kept me going.

What kept you alive?

My kids: 10 and 8 years-old, my husband and my family.

How did your family react when they were told you’ve got cancer?

My mother didn’t take it very well. I think because she thought I was going to die, so that was her first reaction. But my kids were really good when I told them. They understood.

And your husband?

I think he was in shock as well, because everyone, when you get told that you have cancer, they think you’re going to die straight off.

Did it have any impact on your relationship with your family, your husband?

It made my family life, because I’m close to my family anyway, it brought my family together and stronger.

Throughout the time when you were told you have cancer, during treatments, time off work, can you talk about some of your experiences.

It made me appreciate my life a bit better, and made me just be thankful for every day. That’s the biggest thing for me. I’ve met so many amazing people, probably, worse off than me. I’m probably much luckier than them so I don’t take anything for granted anymore.

Can you talk about the support you had? What was the most supportive thing done for you throughout this time?

People watching out for my children, because my kids are my biggest priority. My family stepped in and really helped out.

Was it your kids that really moved you and made you determined to have the treatments done?

Probably, because my sister has some friends who have breast cancer. She knew what to do and she was really helpful. I felt better because I had also researched everything too.