It was purple fever is all around us at Kleenheat Gas for WesCEF’s Wear Purple to Work Day in support of Breast Cancer Care WA.
In line with Purple Bra Day, Kleenheat along with other businesses in the Wesfarmers Chemicals, Energy & Fertilisers (WesCEF) division, came together dressed in their best purple attire to help donate funds to the cause.
At Kleenheat, we hosted a BBQ and bake-off featuring delicious, beautiful homemade cupcakes that were created generously by our Customer Service Team.
Everyone put in such great effort to raise a generous amount of money for this great cause.
Customer Service Group Leader, Shelby Coombes at CSBP, another business within the WesCEF division, has long been a supporter of Purple Bra Day. But after being diagnosed with breast cancer less than two years ago, the day has taken on a whole new meaning and she now has her own message to share – don’t wait until you’re 50 to get a mammogram.
After Shelby’s mum was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, it took Shelby about three months to get checked herself. The mammogram identified a small cancer contained in a cell. During a subsequent ultrasound, a specialist picked up another cancer, which although even smaller, was actually more invasive and was already coming out of the cell.
“I thought I was too young, that it would never happen to me,” Shelby said. “I was only 42 at the time, so that’s the shock of it. I had always been fit and healthy and I never expected it. There were no lumps, no clues at all.
“If mum had not been diagnosed, no doubt I wouldn’t have gone for a mammogram until after I was 50, by which time there’s a great chance that the cancer would have spread significantly.”
Not wanting to go through hearing the words ‘you have cancer’ and worse still ‘you have to have a mastectomy’, Shelby decided to have a double mastectomy and underwent surgery in November 2012. Some of her back muscle was threaded around under her armpits to help reconstruct her breasts. Breast expanders were also used in the reconstruction and were taken out in a second operation a year later.
“It was a painful and long recovery but I feel I have got out of it lightly, having had no chemo or radiotherapy,” Shelby said. “My back is still fairly numb but the feeling is starting to come back and I can now lift my arms and hang washing on the line.
“There’s still pain and weakness and the thought of doing a pushup makes me cringe, but I don’t have cancer so I can’t complain. I’ve had a lot of great people around me who have been amazingly supportive and I feel good about the decision I made.”
Shelby’s mum is also recovering after having her cancer removed and undergoing chemo and radiotherapy. She continues to regain her strength after being quite sick throughout the treatment.
Shelby said Customer Service first got involved in Purple Bra Day about four years ago when one of the guys came in wearing a blonde wig and handed out purple bras to everyone. “I look back on the photos and I would have had cancer then,” she said. “We’ve also had a lot of drivers come through who have dealt with breast cancer in some way, so the office has always been really supportive of the day.
“As for my own experience, CSBP was incredibly supportive throughout. They gave me as much time off work as I needed. I had three months off and then when I first came back I was only working three days a week.”
Shelby is now determined to get her message out there. In May she told her story at her daughter’s work for Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea, which raises money for the Cancer Council. By sharing her story Shelby hopes she can encourage women to not wait until they are 50 to have a mammogram.
“It scares me to think what would have happened if I had waited,” she said. “I really think BreastScreen Australia should change their message.”
Currently BreastScreen Australia is targeted specifically at women without symptoms aged 50-69 years. Women in their 40s who have no breast problems are able to have a free screening mammogram through BreastScreen Australia if they wish. However, they are not specifically targeted to attend.
Around 75 per cent of all breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50.
Current evidence indicates that the benefits of breast cancer screening for women aged 40-49 years are not strong enough to encourage all women in this age group to have regular breast cancer screening. BreastScreen Australia will continue to review this policy as new research becomes available.
Click here to visit BreastScreen WA
Click here to donate to Breast Cancer WA