In May 2018 I will be trekking the Kokoda trail, nearly 2 years after I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33. For 9 days I will trek 96km of rugged terrain in Papua New Guinea with one of my best mates Anita Grima.
It’s a huge challenge but having breast cancer has made me more stronger and determined than ever.
Belynda would love your support to reach her goal!
My motivation for doing the trek is to raise awareness about the So Brave Project and funds for breast cancer research. I will be walking in the footsteps of our WW2 heroes and I will also be walking to honour those women who fought and are fighting a different battle, breast cancer.
While my journey has been tough, I am one of the lucky ones and it has given me a purpose – to raise awareness that young women need to breast aware and potentially save someone’s life. So please support myself and Anita trekking the Kokoda trail and donate towards So Brave – Australia’s Young Women’s Breast Cancer Charity. Thank you.
Beautiful Belynda Mills is So Brave – she is joining Australia’s Young Women’s Breast Cancer Charity as a 2018 So Brave Model Ambassador and as part of her efforts to fundraise during her year as an Ambassador will be walking the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea! Belynda shares how much the community support meant to her when she was going through treatment:
“I live on a farm in Mullewa in WA. I started my treatment for breast cancer during harvest – one of the busiest times of the year for us. We are so fortunate that we have an amazing community in Mullewa.
One day a group of farmers stopped their own harvest to give us a helping hand. It was an incredible day with nine headers, six chaser bins and seven trucks turning up to help us finish harvest. I was having chemo in Perth at the time and it made a huge difference. I’m forever grateful to everyone that helped that day.”
More information about the trek is available at http://www.kokodaspirit.com.au
Flashback to 16th October 2016 – my first round of chemotherapy. It was probably the first time that my diagnosis of breast cancer really hit me. It was so emotional sitting in that chemo chair for the first time and knowing what was about to happen. This was the first of another 15 rounds of chemo that would follow over the next 6 months.
For my first few rounds I wore a cold cap on my head to try and keep my hair. It’s basically a helmet type hat that’s attached to a machine that freezes your scalp to stop the chemo reaching the hair follicles. The pain was excruciating. Imagine the worst ice cream headache after nearly 3 hours! Unfortunately the cold cap didn’t work and 3 weeks later I lost all my hair which was devastating.
I hope by sharing this photo it reminds young women to always be #breastaware as early diagnosis gives the best chance of survival.
About So Brave
So Brave was founded by young breast cancer survivor Rachelle Panitz after her own breast cancer diagnosis at age 32, after having just given birth to her son 6 weeks earlier and with a 3 year old daughter. Breast cancer turned her family and professional life upside down and she decided that when she was better she would harness this setback and help empower other women. As a young mother diagnosed with breast cancer just weeks after the birth of her son, Rachelle wanted to create awareness that breast cancer can happen at any age, with or without a family or genetic history. More importantly, she felt very isolated, confused and frustrated with the lack of medical support and information about the risk of breast cancer and in diagnosing young women.
She founded So Brave after a chance meeting with internationally renowned bodypaint artist Wendy Fantasia and the project has gone from strength to strength. In January 2017, after nearly twelve months’ work and nearly 50 creators and participants, So Brave Ltd successfully became its own legal entity and charity, with a clear message and focus on young women diagnosed with breast cancer. So Brave is recognised as raising awareness that #youngwomengetbreastcancertoo and fundraising for breast cancer research.
The first Calendar, launched in August 2016, began with amazing media publicity and successfully raised $70,000 for the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the Centre for Personalised NanoMedicine. The first Calendar featured the stories and breathtaking images of young women who were diagnosed with breast cancer before 40 years of age in iconic and beautiful locations in Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Gold Coast, Brisbane and Sunshine Coast.
Building on this success, So Brave has spent the first half of 2017 travelling over 16,000km to bring the project to regional and remote women across Australia, in this our year of regional focus. In partnership with the McGrath Foundation and with the support of many wonderful McGrath breast care nurses, So Brave brought our once-in-a-lifetime bodypaint and photoshoot days to women across regional and remote Australia; from Mackay in far north Queensland, to Phillip Island, Nullawarre and Warrnambool in Victoria and over to Coffin Bay and up to Alice Springs and many places in between. In 2017, our fundraising efforts will support the McGrath Foundation and will continue to support our investment in breast cancer research. We look forward to building on our successes year on year and raising awareness of breast cancer diagnosis in young women.
Our annual So Brave Model Ambassador Program is a key focus on the So Brave Calendar each year as we work with 12 young women who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer before they were 40 years old. They participate in a year-long model ambassador program to share their stories and raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research. Their once-in-a-lifetime experience in a full bodypaint and photoshoot which features in our fundraising Calendar is one of the most body-positive and empowering experiences our models have ever had.
So Brave’s Research Grants Program will be launched in 2018. The grants will directly fund best practice scientific and medical research across Australia that focuses on better prevention, diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of Breast Cancer, particularly in young women.