AS a shining beacon of resilience and hope, 38-year-old Tanya Lawes is tackling 200km on her trusty bike this weekend as part of Perth Mint’s Ride to Conquer Cancer team.
It is a journey that has its origins in a disturbing event last year, when a lump the size of a golf ball “popped out” on her breast, the Bayswater woman said.
“As I was flying out to Bali for a family holiday the next week, I decided to ignore it and thought it could not possibly be breast cancer as I was only 37,” Ms Lawes said.
The mother of three said she went to her doctor after her holiday and he thought it was just a cyst, but referred her for scans in case it was anything more sinister.
Then in June last year Ms Lawes received the devastating news that she had stage II, grade II triple positive multi focal breast cancer that was 5-6cm and detected in her lymph nodes.
“I was told that I would need to have a mastectomy, have my lymph nodes removed, and chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment,” Ms Lawes said.
“I decided to try chemo before surgery to try to shrink the tumour as it was quite close to my chest wall.
“As a working mother with children aged six, five and three the diagnosis was very inconvenient to say the least.”
Despite the enormous challenges Ms Lawes continued to work full-time at Perth Mint throughout her treatment and kept up her cycling to and from work.
“On the days of chemo treatment, I would cycle to work, go to Royal Perth Hospital for chemo, come back to work for a little bit, and when the nausea became too much I would cycle home,” Ms Lawes said.
“During radiation I would be up at 5am, cycle to work, catch the train to Fiona Stanley Hospital for treatment at 7am, come back to work and then cycle home afterwards.”
Ms Lawes said she worked with a personal trainer during her treatment to help her cope with its physical demands.
“We pushed hard with strength training and I managed to push 300kg on the leg press,” she said.
In addition to the challenges of chemotherapy, Ms Lawes faced further turmoil in September last year.
“Halfway through my treatment my father was diagnosed with bowel cancer and he required chemo, radiotherapy and several surgeries,” she said.
“He just had his last surgery this month.”
After her chemotherapy treatment Ms Lawes was given the positive news in January that the scans showed only two minuscule lumps and instead of having a mastectomy she was given the option of a lumpectomy.
“When the lumpectomy and lymph nodes pathology results were returned it showed I had a complete response from the chemo with no cancerous cells detected,” she said.
She said she wanted to share her story to give hope to those living with cancer.
And, only four weeks after having her final Herceptin injection, she is riding in this weekend’s event to help raise much-needed funds for cancer research.
Team Perth Mint has now raised more than $100,000 for the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, with the Mint itself donating $20,000.
To donate to the Ride to Conquer Cancer, visit http://pr16.conquercancer.org.au/site/TR/Ride/Perth2017?team_id=18190&pg=team&fr_id=1280.