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Three words I never thought I’d say: 'I have cancer'

Auckland writer Kylie Haack wants other Kiwi women to hear her story and take action.

Mum-of-one and writer Kylie Haack lives in Kawakawa Bay, a small coastal town on the outskirts of Auckland. Recently, she was told she has cancer. This is her story.

So, it turns out I have CANCER.

Yep, you know the dreaded c-bomb? I’ve got it. And I’m just 31-years-old.

Surprised? So was I.

The even scarier part is that I shouldn’t have been.

Let’s face it, we all know at least one person that’s had cancer. The worst part? Unfortunately it’s becoming even more common than we realise.

According to the Cancer Society, 60 New Zealanders will hear the words “you have cancer” today. And another 60 will hear them tomorrow, and another 60 the day after that...

And that is why I’m sharing my story with you. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. 
I don’t want your pity. I want you to get off your asses and get checked out.

Too many of us think we are invincible. We hear about people being diagnosed with cancer and immediately think “that won’t happen to me”.

I was one of those people.

I went for my smear test, a year overdue. In New Zealand once you’re in your twenties you’re meant to get checked up every three years. I figured my test would come back fine.

I received a call from my nurse stating that the doctor wanted me to come into the clinic to discuss my results. I live 40-minutes away and a cyclone was heading our way so I was trying to put off the appointment. That was until I started questioning the nurse and she said “look the doctor said I can’t give you any information over the phone, however, your results show you have abnormal cells".

Not what I expected.

Naturally, I text my bestie and she assures me that’s pretty normal. She’s had the same result before, and so has her sister.

I call Dad and tell him the news. He suggests coming with me to look after my daughter Casey. Plus if the weather turns to shit at least the three of us will be together.

In a couple of hours, we drive through to the clinic. As I sit there, Anne-Marie starts to inform me that my smear test results have indicated an epithelial cell abnormality that’s consistent with adenocarcinoma in-situ.

That means that I have the early stages of cancer.

I hear myself saying “okay…”, and she keeps talking.
I don’t hear much else for a few minutes except my inner dialogue. It’s going bat-shit-crazy.

I have cancer?

What?


How?

Kylie and her daughter, Casey.
Kylie and her daughter, Casey.

Hang on, I have cancer?

Poor Anne-Marie. She’s watching my expressionless face. I guess she’s waiting for me to cry. 
I don’t. I feel numb.

I ask her to write down the type of cancer I have. I can’t even pronounce adenocarcinoma, let alone remember it. “I’ll print off your report for you to take home,” she suggests.

I ask her what’s next. Anne-Marie explains that she’s put through an urgent referral to a specialist and that I’ll expect to hear back next week. From there I’ll have a colposcopy. The specialist will take a biopsy and then the cancer will be tested and graded, to find out what stage I’m at.

I love Anne-Marie’s positive tone. She’s kind, and she assures me that it’s likely we’ve found this early enough that I can get it cut out. I hope so too.

A few more words are exchanged and she writes down a website for me to look up some more information once I digest what’s just taken place.

I walk out to the waiting room to see Dad and Casey. I manage a small smile – I know Dad will want to know what’s happened, but I can’t do this here.

I need to get out this place.

“Let’s get out of here before the storm sets in,” I say. I rush to pay and exit the building.

Dad passes Casey to me, I give her a kiss and load her into her car seat.

I start shaking.

I explain to Dad that he’ll have to drive, because I don’t think I’ll be able to. “It’s not good news, Dad.”

And I cry.

I fumble through tears and explain as best I can about what’s just happened. He’s gutted.
 We’re driving and he places his hand on mine. I love that man with all my heart. He’s my hero.

I ring Jono. I ring Mum. I ring my in-laws.
They all offer their love and support.

After about half an hour the tears stop.

I say to Dad how we’ve been dealt a fair bit of shit lately. He was just in hospital the month before, and I thought I might lose him.

That’s when I realised that this was just a bump in the road.

I've been through way worse

At the tender age of 18, I was in a fatal car accident. The man I hit died at the scene. I thought I was going to go to jail. It was a tragic accident, and it changed me. Forever.

At the age of 26, my best friend and fiancé called off our relationship when we were due to get married in one months’ time. We had been together for 7-years. Had the house and all.

Just two years ago, I was pregnant with my little girl Casey. I was in chronic pain through half of my pregnancy.

And now this.

But guess what cancer – just a heads up, I’m tough. Good luck trying to take me down.

So, like I said, don’t give me your pity.
Don’t wrap me up in cotton wool.

This is my bump in the road.

All I ask, is please get yourself checked out. 
Get that regular smear test. Or that prostate checkup.

Tell your friends and family to book an appointment.
 You’re not invincible.

Life IS short. 
Treasure your loved ones.

Take action NOW.

Kylie is currently waiting for my test results from her colposcopy. From there, her specialist will be able to advise the best course of treatment. She says it’s a bit of a waiting game, unfortunately.

You can follow Kylie's journey on her blog, kyliehaack.com

Words: Kylie Haack