February 01, 2022

A reminder to check your breasts from KIC’s Women’s Health Educator

When I was six years old, I remember sitting in my classroom on the floor in a circle with my classmates. We each had to go around the circle & tell the class something that happened on the weekend. I can’t remember anything about what the other children said. I assume it would have been along the lines of playing in the playground, going to a birthday party. You know, normal six year old stuff. And then it was my turn. I remember telling the class that my grandma had died on the weekend.

I’m not quite sure why I have this memory that I can see so clearly. I don’t think I could tell you much else about being in prep. I couldn’t even tell you anything more about how the teacher or the rest of the class reacted. But I remember this one tiny moment in time.

I suppose it’s because that’s all I remember about my grandma dying. My parents were obviously very careful at the time to ensure I was protected from the destructive & traumatic world of cancer. I didn’t see nan in hospital. I don’t recall seeing her unwell. I honestly can’t remember my parent’s grief, but I know it was there, because it’s still there today; hidden, but still raw.

I do have a few fond memories of my nan though. I remember she would pick me up from Kindergarten, and I would get to pick 3 lollies from the jar before sitting on my little fold out couch (it was a 90s thing) to watch Playschool and Bananas In Pyjamas until mum or dad came to pick me up.

My grandma passed away in her 50s from Breast Cancer. From what my mum has told me, it was a short battle. Nan knew she had a lump for a while, but didn’t get it checked. Denial. Fear maybe. I guess we’ll never really know. But what we do know is that if she’d have gotten the lump checked sooner, maybe things would be different. Maybe I’d still have my nan. Or at least maybe I would have had her for longer, and would have had more memories.

Everyone thinks “that won’t happen to me,” but I look at my mum now, in her late 50s and not too far from when Nan passed away, and I couldn’t imagine losing her. But 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer, and I’m sure most of you would know of someone who’s lives have been changed forever because of this disease. It’s the fourth leading cause of death in Australia, but what we do know is that early detection increases the 5 and 10 year survival rates.

There are several risk factors for breast cancer, like having first degree relatives diagnosed with breast cancer. But there’s something that every one of you can do to protect yourself. Ladies, touch yourself.  Feel your boobs and get to know them. Regularly examine your own breasts and if anything feels out of the ordinary, please speak to your doctor.  Breast cancer is a destructive disease that can rip through families, and I would give anything to have my nan back for a day, but you can make sure you don’t become another statistic like she did.


How to check your breasts.

Ash Mason