10 Years On…

If you had told me when I was laying in my hospital bed at 25 years old, feeling scared and alone, that the little idea I had called Pink Hope, would become larger than life – I wouldn’t have believed you.

I still don’t believe it, but 10 years later and this is the story of Pink Hope and I.

I haven’t always felt lucky and I certainly didn’t feel in control when I found out that I carried the faulty BRCA gene. It took every ounce of my energy to change my view on my situation.

My families cancer curse defined my life in what can only be described as a constant and overwhelming sense of dread. I asked myself a thousand times, would I get cancer like everyone in my family? Was there anything I could do about it?

In 2008, having your breasts removed for preventative reasons was practically unheard of in Australia. It was considered radical and crazy and so I had to look overseas for stories of empowerment.

Was I crazy to think of removing my breasts before cancer? In Australia, at that time, the answer was – yes.

I made the decision to take control of my risk as a young mum. It was during my last high risk mammogram that the radiologist came in and said “Sorry, we need to take another image”. I thought this was standard procedure but this time it wasn’t. I was told to wait and then they rushed me to my specialist. Her exact words “Krystal, we have found changes in your breast tissue – linear lines of calcification. I want you to go upstairs for a biopsy now”.

Those were the words I had feared my whole life – biopsy, lumpectomy. My Mum had been through over 10 before they found her cancer at 36. I felt like this was going to happen to me only a decade earlier. I went pale and nearly threw up. The words burst from my mouth “I don’t care what it is. Take them. Take my breasts – I don’t want them”. In that moment, the dream I had of taking control of my cancer risk and being different from my Mum, Nan and Great-Grandmother – felt further away with every second.

The doctor said “We can fit you in for surgery in 2 weeks’ time”. I signed the paper work and that was it.

I would become the first woman in my family to choose to have her breasts removed.

While being wheeled into theatre I decided to share my story with a national TV program. I was determined that this wouldn’t be in vain – I wanted to make a difference and what a difference it turned out to be.

I woke up from surgery feeling sore and sorry for myself but a calmness settled over me in that moment. The cloud that had resided over my life for as long as I could remember had suddenly lifted. I asked my mum to pass me my computer and I started to work on what is now known as ‘Pink Hope’. A place where my hopes, dreams, support and empowerment would be able to reach women all around the country.

If anyone had told me back then that I would have a hand in revolutionising BRCA and changing the lives of thousands of high risk women – I wouldn’t have believed them. It is still hard to believe but this beautiful organisation has become a guiding light to so many for which I am so thankful.

I have tackled things in my life that I never thought I would have the courage to. From standing up in front of thousands of people and sharing my story, to standing up for women in challenging situations at Parliament House or speaking with resistant ‘experts’. Pink Hope has given me purpose, passion and resilience.

I believe whole heartedly that ‘knowing your risk’ is the foundation in which all healthcare should reside. It saved my life and I know it will continue to empower women for generations to come.

10 years on, I stand before you as a strong and empowered women. I may have lost my breasts, ovary, fallopian tubes, cervix, uterus and more – but I have re-built myself to understand that – what you can control you do and what you can’t control you try bloody hard to change. 

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