Kate Bocock’s cancer treatment may have robbed her of her long blonde hair, but it hasn’t stolen her model smile or her sense of humour. As the 40-year-old mother of four prepares for her New Zealand Woman’s Weekly fashion shoot, she tells us how she’s finally said goodbye to Fred, the wig she wore following chemotherapy.
“My kids said they didn’t want the other kids at the school to see me bald, which is fair enough, so when I was out in public, I would wear Fred. But as soon as I’d go home, I’d throw Fred in the fruit bowl,” she laughs.
There’s no doubt Gabrielle (12), Luca (10), Genevieve (6) and Victoria (3) are happy to see their vivacious mum back to her old self. There were times following her breast cancer diagnosis in September where she couldn’t get off the couch. For Kate, who modelled a few times in her early twenties, a Look Good Feel Better class – which supports women undergoing cancer treatment – boosted her self-esteem.
“I felt beautiful after the workshop, not a cancer victim but a young, vibrant woman. Cancer is a robber. It steals not only parts of your body, but also your self-belief,” she reveals.
Kate’s cancer was discovered by chance, just a few months before her 40th birthday. The bubbly teacher at City Impact Church School in Auckland could never have detected the 1.5 centimetre lump in her left breast through a self-examination.
“It was a miracle that I went to the doctor. I had some residual pain from an abscess that developed while breastfeeding my third child and an ultrasound picked up the lump.”
Had the aggressive tumour been allowed to grow, it could have spread to her lymphatic system, leaving her with a very different diagnosis.
Kate says she couldn’t have got through the whirlwind that followed – including a partial mastectomy – without her husband Simon and her family.
There were also colleagues who would send her children home from school with baking, friends who would come over for a cup of tea and fold her washing, and one particular friend whose goal was to make Kate laugh through every chemotherapy treatment.
“We’d find a silly song, like I Like Big Butts by Sir Mix-a-Lot. She’d do a dance and send me the video,” Kate recalls.
It wasn’t long before other friends and even some of their husbands joined in. On one particularly dark day at the clinic, Kate had five videos from friends dancing with hats on.
“Most women I talk to with cancer have difficulty asking for help or even admitting they need it. We’re all looking for a sense of normality,” she says.
For Kate, modelling for the Weekly just before her oncology appointment may not be a normal day, but she says it’s a chance to tell cancer that it won’t rob her of her joy.
“It’s quite empowering,” she says, smiling. “Cancer has made me focus on what I truly want out of life.”
Words by: Anastasia Hedge
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