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The International Women’s Day Fun Run is on again and on the 8 March 2020 13,500 people will descend on Brisbane in a sea of pink to raise funds for breast cancer research and support women undergoing treatment.
Vivina (Vina) Momoka underwent treatment for breast cancer at Mater Private Hospital Springfield and South Brisbane and was kind enough to share her inspirational story with us and her message of how important it is to take care of your health and listen to your body.
“In Fijian culture having an itching nipple means that someone close to you is pregnant,” Viv explains.
“I thought perhaps my sister or a close friend might be pregnant, it’s a superstition we have but I never thought anything of it.”
She examined her breasts but could not find any lumps. However Vina did experience discharge from her breasts and her co-workers encouraged her to have it checked out.
“I was a busy working mother and I knew I should check it out but mothers so often put themselves last and I kept putting it off,” she said.
“One day my breasts started bleeding and I was so worried I went straight to hospital. The bleeding continued during my mammogram I knew something was very wrong.”
Straight after her mammogram doctors took her into a room and informed her she had cancer, Vina was in shock and started crying. She was counselled by staff until her husband came to collect her.
“On the way home we were stopped by a police officer, apparently our registration was expired. It was all too much and my husband burst into tears in front of the officer. We could see tears in his eyes as well and he let us go,” she said.
Vina is a vibrant, bubbly, happy person; she was determined not to let this diagnosis negatively impact her life or her family.
“I told my husband we needed to be strong for our boys, I told him I would take care of myself and no one was to feel sorry for me. I told him I had always wanted to have my boobs done – this was my chance,” she laughs.
While she handled her diagnosis with humour, positivity and grace Vina had a difficult battle ahead of her. During her treatment she experienced a minor stroke in front of her children where one of her sons had to call an ambulance.
“Chemo took everything out of me; I was unable to cope with day-to-day life. When I was having treatment I couldn’t have any noise on in the house, my family had to turn off all devices otherwise I would start vomiting,” she said.
Following her treatment Vina went to Fiji for a break to visit her family, she believed her husband would be fine and able to take care of life at home but upon her return found he was impacted by mental illness and not coping.
“We both ended up in hospital at the same time. During my treatment I would drag myself out of bed and go visit him, I was weak and ill but I knew I had to do it,” she said.
“He’s fortunately much better now and is back at work, doing much better.”
At the end of her two year journey battling cancer Vina was finally able to ring the bell to announce the end of her treatment, she had been looking forward to this day for so long.
“I’m so proud of myself for getting through this, it was a tough journey and I am so grateful to my incredibly supportive husband, children, parents, family and community,” she said.
“The team at Mater were incredible, Dr Sharma, Dr Fang, Dr Lambley were wonderful to me. They made a terrible experience enjoyable. Mater became my second home.
“The future looks bright for me, I know I can fight anything that comes my way.”
Vina stresses to women everywhere to notice the warning signs, breast cancer does not just appear as a lump.
Mater Breast Care Nurse Jen Dalton says it’s important to check your breasts regularly and have scheduled mammograms.
“Things to look for include a new lump or lumpiness, change in size and shape, change in the nipple, discharge, bleeding, changes in the skin or unusual pain. Any changes or concerns should be reported to your GP as soon as possible,” Jen said.
The 2020 RACQ International Women’s Day Fun Run will be held on Sunday 8 March to raise funds to support women with breast cancer and fund life-saving research. You can show your support and donate at https://fundraise.mater.org.au/sponsor/iwdfr
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