The Pink Ribbon Street Appeal today and tomorrow aims
to raise funds to support women withbreast cancer, boost
awareness and fund research into targeted treatments. Reporter
Shawn McAvinue talks to St Kilda woman Leanne Smith, who is
facing her own struggle.
Terminally ill Leanne Smith is making the most of each day.
Photo by Peter McIntosh.
A fortnight ago Leanne Smith planned her funeral, chose the
colour of her coffin and the songs she wanted played.
But she's keeping the details a secret. ''There's a few
surprises,'' was all she would say yesterday.
Mrs Smith (41) is dying of breast cancer, yet she remains
upbeat and determined to enjoy whatever time she has left.
Despite always being on oxygen, she had created lists to make
the most of each day.
''My husband said I can shop, so I go shopping. I get up with
him at 6am and start my day ... I don't sit still, I just go
from the minute I get up.''
Husband Michael Smith and stepsons Jayden (20), Thomas (18)
and William (9) want her to rest but she says resting is a
waste of time.
''There will be that day when I can't do it, so for now I
Her two younger sisters, Deborah and Melanie, held a pink
morning tea party for her yesterday.
The family were beyond shedding tears.
''We don't cry, we laugh - we've probably never laughed so
much as a family.
"We don't take it lightly but it's not all doom and gloom. We
have to make the most of every single day and that's what
Mrs Smith was first diagnosed with the ''aggressive''
inflammatory breast cancer two years ago.
A fortnight earlier, she had seen her doctor because her left
breast was larger than her right one.
''It was like somebody had blown it up like a balloon.''
Then followed 18 weeks of chemotherapy, five weeks of
radiation and a double mastectomy.
''I thought it was gone and then in February this year, I got
Several visits to the doctor revealed she had secondary
breast cancer and lung cancer.
''I'm terminal and have weeks to live.''
In hindsight, she said she should have seen her doctor
''I waited at least six weeks before seeing the doctor
because I assumed every day I took my bra off it would have
gone down. For six weeks I waited, thinking tomorrow would
have been different and it never was.''
There was no breast cancer in her family medical history and
she was unaware swelling was a symptom.
The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation is raising awareness
of the lesser-known symptoms of breast cancer.
Foundation chief executive Van Henderson said research
revealed that the earlier breast cancer was detected, the
better the outcome, so the foundation wanted women to know
all the signs and symptoms.
The five lesser-known signs of breast cancer are changes in
the skin of the breast, including dimpling, puckering or
redness; a change in breast shape or size; unusual breast
pain; a nipple discharge; or changes in the nipple, such as a
Most lumps and other symptoms were often not breast cancer
but the foundation urged women to report any changes to their
Further information could be found on the foundation's
Ms Henderson said $800,000 of research the foundation had
committed to over the next two years included $100,000 to Dr
Rhonda Rosengren at Otago University.
Dr Rosengren and her team are targeting triple negative
cancers and hope to develop a low-cost nano-medicine to
target triple negative tumour tissue.
If the initial project was successful, the foundation would
commit up to another $100,000 for the next phase.
This research could lead to clinical trials in women in
two to three years' time.