Accept the diagnosis, defy the verdict!

Barbara McNaught from Auckland shares her story of hope – having been diagnosed with advanced breast cancer 20 years ago.

“I’m in a good place now but I never take anything for granted. Having Sweet Louise in the background has been my ‘backbone’,” says Barbara.


“I was the 6th in my family to get breast cancer (there has since been a 7th) so I had been vigilant and caught it early. I had a partial mastectomy, 22 glands removed, ovaries and hysterectomy followed by radiation and Tamoxifen. I was back to living life.

“I have inflammatory arthritis of the spine and 5 years later, I started experiencing a lot of pain. I live in Auckland and had medical insurance. In just one week, I saw my rheumatologist, GP, had x-rays, a full bone scan, MRI and two oncologist appointments. Three weeks later I started radiotherapy. It was bone metastasis. My world was only starting to unravel.

“A few months later my husband left and then my family was struck with real tragedy when I lost a grandson. My grandson had been devastated by my cancer diagnosis and was desperate that I should live. In his memory, I was determined to do so.

“My oncologist decided to trial me on a drug not available in NZ but that was having good results overseas. It was Letrozole. (I believe I was the first in NZ to use it). It worked wonders on me – year after year. Already having arthritis, the aching bones didn’t worry me.

“But I discovered that walking stopped the aches. I took up walking (short and slow at first) and now I walk 3kms a daily…or just to the letter box on ‘not so good’ days.

“My GP encouraged me to join an aerobics class. No lycra! A class of enthusiastic oldies doing their best. Coffee with the girls afterwards is my incentive. I started feeling so much better. Walking helps stress, deals with Letrozole aches and my bone density actually improved.

“When I originally heard of Sweet Louise I was told about the vouchers. I heard they could be used for massages and facials etc. I replied my face is beyond redemption, but I wished I could get my spoutings cleaned! When I was told the vouchers included Hire a Hubby, I signed up that day!

“With clean spoutings, I felt guilty and felt I ought to attend a meeting. That was a surprise. It wasn’t a group of sick, moaning women. It was instant friendship being with others who understood my ‘new normal’ world.

“Everyone was enjoying themselves and laughing. What a spirit lifter! I’ve hardly missed a meeting ever since.

“It is reassuring my Support Coordinator is only a phone call away. It has given me strength. I have some long-term Sweet Louise friends. Other friendships have been shorter, but I feel enriched and blessed to have understood and shared part of their lives.

“I’ll be forever grateful to Sweet Louise, the staff, the volunteers, and those who make donations that make Sweet Louise possible. I’m sure they have no idea how much they are appreciated.

“My original diagnosis was ‘maybe only 2 years’. 20 years on my oncologist says I am clear (not cured) of cancer. He called it a miracle.

“At that first appointment I declared I would live until I was a grumpy, old woman. I’ve made the ‘old’ so I better not get grumpy. I’m not going anywhere….’cept Sweet Louise.

“My advice:

  • Accept the diagnosis, defy the verdict.
  • Make every day count, even in the smallest ways.
  • Make the effort to make memories.
  • Tell the people you love how special they are and thank them.
  • Let others help – they feel helpless otherwise.
  • If in pain, don’t become one.
  • Don’t let your health become your hobby.
  • When you must, but don’t want to – just do it!
  • Exercise as much as possible.
  • Love lasts forever.

“Sending big thanks and Louise hugs to all!”